Monday morning was very busy at the Hogs Back as an enormous lorry arrived carrying some much anticipated machinery. Hop Estate manager, Matthew, was especially excited as he has been waiting and planning for this day for nearly 2 years!
In the summer of 2018 Matthew set off to rural Poland to take a look at the Hop Picker, known as 'The Wolf', in action taking in a hop harvest. Since that day the kit has been transported to a farm engineering firm in Worcestershire for refurbishment where they have also constructed a custom-built Hop Kiln which also arrived on the same day.
The arrival of this kit is a significant milestone in the Brewery's ambition to become increasing self-sufficient in terms of hops. This really brings the mission of 'From Field to Firkin in a Furlong' to life!Matthew Kingdom, Hop Estate Manager
Later this summer we are expecting to take the first harvest from our new Hop Garden which we planted back in the Autumn of 2018 following the Big Hop Move to the new site. The hop bines will be sorted into the 3 varieties we grow, Farnham White Bine, English Cascade and Fuggles and individually fed into the picking machine. This will then separate the precious hop cones used for giving our beer aroma and bitterness from the bine and used string.
Some of these fresh or 'green' hops will be taken straight away to be used in the brewing of green-hopped beer such as our Green TEA. The majority of the hops will need to be dried before being stored to help preserve the flavour throughout the brewing year. This is where we would use the new kilning equipment.
All of this new machinery is being stored in the newly acquired 'Hop Hanger' which as the name suggests was up until recently used to store small planes and aero parts. The hanger is just yards from the Hop Garden meaning that the hops will travel a tiny distance before being kilned This will help maintain the optimum freshness; a benefit we expect to see in the quality of our beer. We are so excited about this as we are the only UK brewery to be both growing and processing hops without them having to leave the site, significantly improving our carbon footprint at the same time.
The hanger will also double as host to the Summer Bar re-opening event on Saturday 4th July with the tables set just outside overlooking the Hop Garden. People who have pre-booked a table will therefore be able to see the sheer scale of this equipment and talk to the team about how it will work.
Out in the Hop Garden, the hops are growing well in the changeable weather. Hopefully we will have a nice settled July & August to encourage the shoots to expand out and start producing the pins & burrs which will ultimately transform into the cones. If you picked up some Hop plants from the drive-through this Spring please share your pictures with us on social media and let us know if you have any queries - Matthew would be delighted to help.