Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Brewing in the 1950’s - Continental Hops

I almost forgot about this. Too busy getting distracted by other shiny articles about hops in the 1950’s.

So here’s Jeffery’s overview of foreign hops. Imported hops had become much less important after the two world wars. For the very simple reason that Britain had become self-sufficient in hops for the first time since the early 1800’s.

Continental Hops. A general characteristic of all Continental hops is the small size of the cone. Indeed, they look only a quarter grown compared with English hops, but even so they are fully grown out. Another noticeable feature is the absence of seeds due to the intentional elimination of the male plant. The strigs are very short, and the bracts are tightly attached to them at very short intervals. Even when ripe it is difficult to pull them apart. On that account Continental hops are favoured for dry hopping, as they do not break up and create floaters. It has been found that this is a very wasteful way of using them, as the failure to break retains the resins which would otherwise be imparted with benefit to the beer.”
"Brewing Theory and Practice" by E. J. Jeffery, 1956, page 175.

Now isn’t that interesting? No, not the thing about Continental hops being seedless. I knew about that. I meant about them being used often as dry hops. By “floaters” he means small pieces of hop that would finish up in someone’s pint. Not what you wanted as a brewer, obviously. Though Jeffery seems to think that not breaking apart was also a disadvantage to their use as dry hops.

He seems quite enthusiastic about the best Continental hops:

“The pockets are of strong texture and large, holding 3 cwt. or more. When samples are drawn, the side shows the hops as very compact, with the resins in definite yellow clusters. There is an absence of leaves, since careful picking is insisted upon. This care also applies to curing, which is very regular. Picking only takes place when the crop is really ripe and ready, and the hops are sun-dried until the whole produce of the Garden is ready for the final curing. The delicacy of flavour of the best growths is indisputable, and it is not to be wondered at that they are hops which find much favour for pale ales. Their preservative properties, too, are high.”
"Brewing Theory and Practice" by E. J. Jeffery, 1956, pages 175 - 176.

Saying they were good enough for Pale Ale is high praise indeed. If you remember, most English hops weren’t considered worthy.

Which Continental hops were considered best isn’t hard to guess:

“In order of brewing value we place first and foremost Certificated Saaz. They are usually of extreme delicacy of flavour, well managed, nicely cured and full of resins. As such, they are highly favoured for the best beers. Next comes the choicest Spalts, which nearly reach the excellence of the Saaz mentioned above. They are not quite so delicate in flavour, however. Then may be bracketed together in about equal value the Saaz Country and Spalt Country, a little greener in colour than the choicer samples, and not quite so regular in size and development. Hallertaus may be placed next, but they require careful examination and selection because, at times, they are decidedly on the green side and not fully grown out. Following these, we place Wurtembergs, hops of some variation in colour and quality. We have seen some quite rich in resins, while others have a distinct deficiency. Lastly, we mention Poperinghes, about which we hardly dare hazard a guess why they are grown at all. They are practically devoid of resin. Their value is for freshening up old hops at the beginning of the season, because they are the first harvested. They have neither character nor flavour. We sometimes hear of Alosts, which can only be classified with Poperinghes.”
"Brewing Theory and Practice" by E. J. Jeffery, 1956, page 176.

There seem to be two types of Saaz hops: Saaz and Saaz Country. I’d noticed the latter – called “Saazer Land” – in Ny Carlsberg’s brewing records. Saaz pop up fairly regularly in British brewing records from the second half of the 19th century onwards. William Younger in Edinburgh were particularly keen on them. In 1868 they were using them in all sorts of beer: IPA, No. 3, 120/-, 140/- and 160/-. Funnily enough, this was exactly the period when Carl Jacobsen was at Younger. I wonder if he picked up the use of Saaz from them.

Hallertau and Wurtemberg hops both appear in Whitbread records from the 1890’s. Hallertau only seem to have been used in Mild Ale, which implies they weren’t considered the very best hops. They pop up again in the 1930’s, this time in Porter and Stout as well as Mild.

Spalt hops were also widely used in Britain at various times. Though they are rarely named, they are usually what was referred to simply as “Bavarians” in brewing records.

Poperinghes and Alost (Aalst) are both Belgian types of hops. They were never rated very highly by British breweries, but they were cheap. I’ve seen both in brewing records, with Poperinghes being far the more common of the two.

The first mention I’ve spotted of Belgian hops in Whitbread’s records in 1849. They used large quantities in the 1850’s in both their Mild and Stock Ales. Occasionally they’re called Poperinghe by name, but mostly it’s just the generic term Belgian.

Next time we’ll be finishing off with North American hops.


Evan Rail said...

Great post, Ron. And glad to see that Saaz were historically considered good for pale ales. I think they work wonderfully in modern pale ales myself.

These two types of Saaz arguably still exist today. As you know, there are three hop-growing regions in the Czech Republic: Žatec/Saaz, Tršice/Trschitz, and Úštěk/Auscha. As I understand it, hops from all three Czech hop-growing regions can be called "Saaz" ("žatecký" in Czech), so long as they are from the Saaz hop cultivar. (Actually cultivars: there are several registered clones.) All three hop-growing regions are excellent, but the Žatec/Saaz region itself is thought to be the best of the three.

When you ask them where their hops are from, or rather, what kind of hops they use, Czech brewers will sometimes say "žatecký žatecký," meaning Saaz hops that are actually from the Saaz region itself. These command a higher price and are thought to be more "elegant," "mild," or "gentle" than the Saaz hops grown elsewhere.

The other Saaz hops are not marked "Saazer Land" or "Saaz Country" today, at least not as far as I know, but the distinction seems to be similar: proper Saaz from Saaz, and Saaz from a different hop-growing region in the same country.

Here's a hop grower in Tršice who offers organic Saaz hops: http://www.jvr-trsice.cz/indexen.htm

Eric Branchaud said...

Would modern Tettnang Tettnanger be an equivalent of Wurtemburg hops? That is a variety I haven't heard much about.

Ron Pattinson said...


thanks very much for that. You've just answered a question I hadn't got around to asking yet. I'd spotted something I couldn't quite make out in the hops column of Carlsberg's records. I'm pretty sure now that it's Auscha.

Everything I've read in British brewing literature is very complimentary about Saaz. Seems to have been the most highly-regarded foreign hop. I've seen it in used in Pale Ales in the 19th century.

dana said...

The Carl Jacobsen name went over my head. Who is he?

Ron Pattinson said...


good question to which I don't know the answer. Though as Tettnang is in Württemberg, you could well be right.

Ron Pattinson said...


he's the Carl in Carlsberg. Son of founder J.C. Jacobsen.

Finias Figglebottom said...

Floaters is almost certainly in regards to seeds. They do not drop out like the cones will so would be a PITA because of that. I have some lambic style beers with "floaters" even after a year+