I visited the hop garden at Northiam Dairy farm on Friday. The guy showing us round said there are only 50 hop farms left in Britain which is a little disturbing. I blame the big brewers wanting higher alpha varieties (so less hops need to be used) and lowering the hop rates in their beers. And of course mainly making lager with foreign hops.
As a traditional brewer (or should that be innovative craft brewer?) I use a lot of English hops. And a lot of foreign hops in that traditional innovative way.fertilised flowers are less susceptible to mildew but the hop farmer pointed out that seeded hops also weigh more which means he has a bigger crop to sell.
The male flowers are the small ones in the middle of this picture.
It was interesting to see how the different hop varieties were doing. As each hop variety is essentially a clone of an individual plant the only genetic variation is between varieties. There's no doubt that lack of genetic variation leads to disease susceptibility in a population as one of the varieties he was growing was definitely having a hard time. But on the plus side another was thriving.
The Sovereign hops were looking lush so we're going to make a beer with them using fresh green hops as soon as they're harvested in early September.
What to call it though? Green hops, the Sovereign variety, and as a traditional innovative brewer I'll want the beer to be hop forward so probably an IPA. Green Sovereign IPA anyone? I can't see any problems with that name and it will surely prove popular.