The 1950’s was a great time for the British hop industry. Two world wars had removed Britain’s dependency on hop imports. Back in the late 19th century between 20% and 40% of the hops used in Britain had been imported. Many of them from the USA.
A lot of it was to do with the drop in gravity. Weaker beers require fewer hops. And the amount of beer consumed also fell during the 20th century, much reducing the demand for hops. So even though production of hops in the 1950’s was about half that in the 1890’s, there were still plenty to go around.
This is really obvious in brewing logs. In the 1890’s, it’s rare to find a beer with no foreign hops. In the 1950’s, apart from the odd fancy Continental hop like Saaz, everything is British. Before WW II, Whitbread used all English hops in their posher beers, but some North American or New Zealand hops in their Milds. In the 1950’s, they don’t seem to have used any foreign hops at all.
The huge increase in barley production during WW II to replace imports meant that for the first time (other than during the wars) Britain was self-sufficient in brewing materials. In reality, it also reflects a decline in the international importance of British brewing.
These numbers will explain why foreign hops were no longer needed. First the 1890’s:
|Hop production, acreage and imports 1890 – 1900 (cwt)|
|year||acres||UK production||yield per acre||net imports the following year||available for consumption||% imports|
|“100 Years of Brewing” 1903, page 656.|
Now the 1950’s:
|Hops: home production and imports|
|Year ended 31st Dec.||Acreage||Estimated Produce||Yield per acre||Imports: Less Re-Exports||Exports: British Hops||Consumption Years ended 30th Sept. following||surplus British hops|
|1955 Brewers' Almanack, page 63.|
|1971 Brewers'Almanack, page 54|
That’s quite a turnaround.
Back to hop varieties. We’ll start with the classic English hop, the Golding.
“English Goldings. The genuine Golding is of very delicate aroma and flavour. It is usually a small and compact hop, of what might be called buttony appearance. When ripe and well managed the cones are unbroken. As a result, when a sample is cut from a pocket the formation of each cone is clearly outlined, with its resins in clusters of gold. The strig is short and angular, with the joints close together. The bracts have the ends rounded off and lie closely packed to the strig. If ripe and in good condition, Goldings should break up in an even and regular texture when rubbed down between the hands. They should not feel stringy, and the deposit on the hands reveals a wealth of resin. As a rule there is not a large amount of seed. For that reason the hop is most suitable for dry hopping, especially as it retains its wholeness in the cask and obviates floaters.
The Golding is an ideal hop for stock pale ales, as the preservative properties are high. It is at all times suitable for any pale ale, especially bottling beers.”
"Brewing Theory and Practice" by E. J. Jeffery, 1956, page 173.
This confirms what I thought about Goldings: good flavour, perfect for Pale Ales, an excellent dry hop. It’s no wonder that it’s hung around for so long. Despite its lower yield per acre, it had many qualities brewers desired.
Now for related varieties:
“Golding Types. Under this heading we can include Bramlings, Worcester Mathons, Cobbs, and Tutshams, all of which vary from Goldings, perhaps in some cases only a little. The difference, however, is just enough to be noticeable.
Bramlings, for instance, ripen earlier than Goldings, and have neither the delicate flavour nor the amount of resin. They are not quite so compact in formation. At the same time, they are very useful pale ale hops. Mathons are claimed to be every bit the equal of Kent Goldings, and with the vast improvement effected in the production of hops in the Worcester district in recent years we are almost inclined to agree. Some, produced by a well-known grower whose name it is inadvisable to mention, are certainly equal to any Goldings ever produced, and they only differ in so far as they are a little brighter and yellower in appearance. This difference in colour is rather a characteristic of the Worcester growth. Cobbs have slightly larger cones, and the bracts do not lie so closely together as is the case with Goldings proper. The flavour is a little coarser. We have seen some with a large amount of resins, but others are rather deficient in this respect. It appears therefore that they vary according to management. They, too, are useful hops for pale ales if blended with some other hop which is rather more delicate in flavour. Tutshams are larger hops, and of still heavier flavour. We advise them for use as a blend with coarse Fuggles in order to tone down the latter for mild ales. The strig of all hops of this type is short, and with joints set closely together at angles.”
"Brewing Theory and Practice" by E. J. Jeffery, 1956, pages 173 - 174.
Strange that Mathons – really the Farnham variety – were grown in Worcester, but not in Surrey. I’d noticed that Worcester hops were sometimes used in quite classy beers. I assume these hops would have been Mathons.
What’s left of Worcester hop growing today? I suspect very little.
Now the other classic English hop:
“Fuggles. Fuggles proper are unfortunately placed upon the market in varying stages of growth. We have seen some samples in which the cones were so small and under-developed as might easily deceive an unpractised eye into thinking the hops were Golding type. There is no mistaking fully grown Fuggles, which sometimes attain a very large size. In colour they are much greener than hops of the Golding type, and this feature is particularly noticeable at the junction of the stalk and strig. So much so that some growers resort to the undesirable practice of bleaching by the use of undue amounts of sulphur in the curing kilns. This bleaching can only be detected by an experienced eye. The strigs are long and fairly thick, and of a greenish hue. The bract joints are some distance apart, and the angles at which they are set are wider. The bracts are long and taper to a point. They are more open, and in fact the whole hop might almost be called 'untidy'. As regards flavour, Fuggles vary very much according to the district where they are grown. Those grown on the rich soil of the Weald of Kent give very heavy crops of coarse flavour. We have met with Fuggles produced from gardens in East and Mid Kent and also Worcester which are of sufficiently delicate flavour to warrant their use in running pale ales. Generally speaking, however, Fuggles are best reserved for mild ales and stout. The amount of resins present varies considerably. In some cases, when a sample is cut cleanly through, the side looks quite golden. In other cases the hops look like useless straw and nothing else.”
"Brewing Theory and Practice" by E. J. Jeffery, 1956, pages 174 - 175.
Sounds as if Fuggles varied greatly in quality and flavour. Classiness in hops could be described as their suitability for use in Pale Ales. Note, though, that Jeffery only considers the best Fuggle’s as good for running Pale Ales, the lowest order of the style. Mostly he recommends it for Mild and Stout, beers with either little hop character or where other strong flavours were present.
Here’s another venerable type of hop. Sort of.
“Farnham and Country Farnhams. Grown in Surrey and Hampshire, these hops are mostly of the Golding type. The first named especially is small and compact, but is a little more pointed in formation. They are very delicate in flavour, and it would be almost wasteful to use these hops in anything but pale ales. The colour is a very pale primrose. Samples of these hops are easily distinguishable from those grown in Kent and Worcester districts, as they weigh nearly half as much again, although of similar size. This feature is due to very close packing and pressing in pockets of much stronger texture. In consequence the pockets are much heavier in weight than the average pocket of just over 1.5 cwt.”
"Brewing Theory and Practice" by E. J. Jeffery, 1956, page 175.
Back in the 1800’s Farnham hops were the most valued by brewers, being considered superior even to East Kent Goldings. Though these aren’t the real Farnham type. The last of those was grubbed up before WW II. Though the region was still producing top-quality hops.
A rare piece of good news for British hops was the announcement in 2014 by the Hogs Back brewery that they were planting a hop garden. And even better, some of the hops were the renowned variety from nearby Farnham, the Farnham White Bine. For the first time in almost 100 years genuine Farnham variety hops are being grown in the region. I wonder what they’re going to do with them?
“Sussex Fuggles. These hops are mentioned separately as they are now sold as a distinct growth. The cones are fairly large and rather open in texture, and, if picked when over-ripe, have a tendency to break up and look ragged. Formerly of decidedly coarse flavour, a definite improvement has been noticed in this respect recently. In fact, better management all round has made Sussex Fuggles quite suitable for mild ales and stout. In colour they are yellower when ripe than the Fuggles from the adjoining county.”
"Brewing Theory and Practice" by E. J. Jeffery, 1956, page 175.
So Sussex Fuggle’s weren’t good enough for Pale Ale, only Mild and Stout. Given that the former was the most popular style back then, it means there was a considerable market for this type of hop.
I’ll finish with a review of the English hop growing districts and their varieties. First before the war:
|Hop varieties by region in the 1930’s|
|East Kent (Canterbury, Faversham)||Goldings, Bramling, Cobb and Tutsham|
|Mid Kent (Medway valley, Maidstone to Tonbridge)||Fuggle's, Bramling, Tutsham, Cobb, Goldings, Tolhurst|
|Weald of Kent (Tonbridge to Sussex)||Fuggle's|
|Hampshire, Surrey||Fuggle's, Farnham Whitebine.|
|Hereford and Worcester||Mathon, Bramling, Fuggle's|
|Berkshire and Shropshire||Fuggle's, Goldings|
|"Brewing Science & Practice" H. Lloyd Hind, 1943, page 391|
Then after it:
|Hop varieties by region in the 1950’s|
|East Kent (Canterbury, Faversham)||Goldings|
|Mid Kent (Medway valley, Maidstone to Tonbridge)||Fuggle's, Goldings|
|Weald of Kent (Tonbridge to Sussex)||Fuggle's, Colegate|
|Hampshire, Surrey||Fuggle's, Farnhams|
|Hereford and Worcester||Mathon, Cobb, Mayfield Grape, Fuggle's|
|"Brewing Theory and Practice" by E. J. Jeffery, 1956, pages 172 - 175.|
Foreign hops next.