Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Brewing in the 1950’s - English Hops (part one)

Continuing with the 1950’s theme, more about hops. To be more precise, about the different types of English hops and their characteristics.

I’m particularly pleased that it details which type of hops were grown in specific regions. This is dead handy for me as brewing records mostly only specify the region of production, not the hop variety. Using this information I’ll be able to guess the variety with more security.

It’s amazing how long two groups of hops have dominated in Britain. The second paragraph could just as well have been written 50 years earlier:

“Types of Hops. Goldings and Fuggles appear to have been the dominating types for many years, but there are now so many varieties on the market that the two original types have been swallowed up in a maze of cross breeds. With the increasing variety of names, it is more and more difficult to classify hops. We should be more accurate if, instead of calling the hops Goldings and Fuggles, we placed them under the headings of Golding type and Fuggle type. When the reason for the introduction of the various types is investigated it will be readily understood, why this complication has arisen."
"Brewing Theory and Practice" by E. J. Jeffery, 1956, page 172.

When I was writing the Home Brewer’s Guide to Vintage Beer, the one area I didn’t feel too confident about was hop varieties. So I asked Ed Wray, who I knew had just written a piece for the Brewery History Society about hops.

What he said was quite surprising. Most of the hops sold as East Kent Goldings aren’t really Goldings, but a series of related varieties. And it’s probable that the specific hop selected by Mr. Golding no longer exists. It’s way more complicated than you might expect. As Jeffery hints above.

This next bit surprised me:

“There is no denying the fact that for many years growers have not been getting prices for their Goldings commensurate with the prices obtained for Fuggles. Goldings are the more difficult to grow, and, being rather delicate, are the more susceptible to diseases, especially the Downy Mildew. Apart from these features, they yield a poorer crop per acre than that obtained from Fuggles. The price paid per cwt, for them does not compensate the grower, in comparison, for his extra trouble. It is hardly to be wondered at that the genuine Golding is going out of favour with the grower. He now goes in for a hop which gives him a greater yield per acre, still of the Golding type, but not of the delicate flavour of the original Golding. The brewer must deplore this change, since no better hop could be used for best pale ale than a Golding. All the same, the brewer is to blame, because it is he who refuses to pay a price for Goldings which will encourage their growth. As a result, growers have come to experiment with crosses between numerous types of hops. These experiments continue daily at research stations, in an endeavour to produce a hop which will give the yield per acre of Fuggles, and at the same time have the delicate flavour of the Golding.”
"Brewing Theory and Practice" by E. J. Jeffery, 1956, page 172.

I’d always assumed that Goldings sold at a premium. It would make sense, given its superior qualities but poorer yield per acre. I’ve just made a little check on hop prices. Thanks to Barclay Perkins very informative brewing records, which include both hop variety and price. Here are the prices I’ve extracted from some records from 1946:

Hop prices in 1946
variety price in shillings per cwt
Fuggles 446
Fuggles 452
Fuggles 437.5
Fuggles 416
Fuggles 476
Fuggles 444
Fuggles 450
Fuggles 474
Fuggles 481
Fuggles 478
average 455.5
Goldings 558
Goldings 531
Goldings 510
Goldings 458.5
Goldings 491
Goldings 476
Goldings 469
Goldings 419
Goldings 491
Goldings 526
average 493.0
Cobb 451
Tolhurst 476
Barclay Perkins brewing record held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number ACC/2305/01/627.

You can see that the difference in average price is small, just 8%.

Now some form the mid-1930’s:

Hop prices in the 1934 - 1937
variety price in shillings per cwt
Fuggles 150
Fuggles 'B" 194
Fuggles 192.5
Fuggles 180
Fuggles 297.5
Fuggles 160
Fuggles 150
Fuggles 281
Fuggles 205
Fuggles 197
Fuggles 180
average 198.8
Goldings 345
Goldings 160
Goldings 223
Goldings 287
Goldings 261
Goldings 1st grade 229
average 250.8
Barclay Perkins brewing records held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document numbers ACC/2305/01/619 and ACC/2305/01/621.

The difference is much larger, 21%. Remember that the average price of hops in these years was £9, or 180/-. Meaning Fuggles were a little above average price, Goldings almost 40% more.

This bit about the different soils in Kent is interesting:

“The position of the grower is not enviable. He is entirely dependent upon the nature of the soil in his garden as to what type of hop he can grow. For instance, the heavy clays of the Weald of Kent are not suitable for the Golding type, yet produce a large crop of Fuggles. On the other hand, the lighter loams of East Kent are not suitable for Fuggles. There does not appear to be any great desire to change the nature of the Fuggles. It continues to give heavy yields per acre, and retains its coarseness of texture and its high preservative properties. It must, however, be admitted that some have toned down in flavour to such an extent that it is possible to use a blend even for delicate pale ales.”
"Brewing Theory and Practice" by E. J. Jeffery, 1956, pages 172 - 173.

So Fuggles in the West, Goldings in the East.

“It is important to enumerate within the compass of these notes all the various hops grown under different names and marks. Of the earlier type, we would mention first of all Bramlings. This hop has rather the appearance of a Golding, being a compact hop of good flavour, but not quite so delicate as a Golding. Then we have Prolifics, a fairly heavy crop but very deficient in lupulin, and of poor brewing value. We fail to see the object of growing such a hop. It comes on the market early, and can only be of use to freshen up old hops.”
"Brewing Theory and Practice" by E. J. Jeffery, 1956, page 173.

I wonder if he means Bramling or Bramling Cross? Prolifics sound a pretty useless. No wonder they aren’t around anymore.

“Among the main crop are numbered Worcester Mathons and Cobbs, the last named being the first ready to pick. We must also include in the list hops grown in Surrey and Hampshire, known in the trade as Farnhams. They are mostly of the Golding character. There are also Fuggles grown in Sussex. Later varieties include Colegates grown in Kent and Sussex usually a strong grower, but coarse in flavour. Also Mayfield Grapes, another hop of rather heavy flavour which grows in the Worcester district. We will now endeavour to give a brief characteristic outline of the various hops.”
"Brewing Theory and Practice" by E. J. Jeffery, 1956, page 173.

Just to confuse even more, Mathons are really the Farnham variety, which by this point were no longer grown in Farnham, the last bines having been grubbed up before the war.

More details of the different hop varieties next time.


The Beer Nut said...

It's reassuring to know that Tomson & Wotton stout carries the Johnny Vegas Seal of Approval.

Ron Pattinson said...

Beer Nut,

I'd missed that.

Ed said...

Sounds like Bramling to me, Bramling Cross has a distinctly different flavour from Goldings.

All hop varieties have to be re-selected periodically, or different characteristics due to mutation (or even human error taking cuttings from the wrong plant!) can creep in.

I've read about the different varieties of many hops, including Fuggles. I believe the current variety of Fuggle is called "Fuggle 37". It superseded "Fuggle N", and both came from selections at Wye.