Tuesday, 5 May 2015

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

Continuing our look at hops in the 1950’s, we’re going to consider the properties of the different varieties.

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
1890 53,961 283,629 5.26 185,526 469,155 40%
1891 56,142 436,716 7.78 176,834 613,350 29%
1892 56,259 413,259 7.35 185,716 598,975 31%
1893 57,564 414,929 7.21 168,316 583,245 29%
1894 59,535 636,846 10.70 204,087 840,933 24%
1895 58,940 553,396 9.39 193,738 747,134 26%
1896 54,217 453,188 8.36 148,660 601,848 25%
1897 50,863 411,086 8.08 223,747 634,833 35%
1898 49,735 356,948 7.18 168,130 525,078 32%
1899 51,843 661,426 12.76 180,233 841,659 21%
1900 51,308 473,894 9.24 141,307 489,201 29%
“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
Cwts. Cwts. Cwts. Cwts. Cwts. Cwts.
1935 18,251 248,300 13.6 35,186 16,223 258,300 -10,000
1936 18,317 252,000 13.7 31,953 19,987 270,692 -18,692
1937 18,093 235,000 13 40,406 16,130 277,846 -42,846
1938 18,460 257,000 13.9 45,287 12,580 286,716 -29,716
1939 18,812 288,000 15.3 7,840 16,050 265,512 22,488
1940 18,592 270,500 14.5 14,675 26,830 251,354 19,146
1941 18,158 262,800 14.5 31 17,209 223,007 39,793
1942 18,420 261,900 14.2 2,963 30,673 231,689 30,211
1943 19,131 285,200 14.9 198 24,941 243,900 41,300
1944 19,603 253,900 13 -- 26,525 244,822 9,078
1945 19,957 282,900 14.1 574 32,337 226,197 56,703
1946 21,163 257,451 13.4 29,243 35,056 217,759 39,692
1947 22,142 289,908 13.2 7,716 31,661 231,470 58,438
1948 22,787 273,584 12 4,561 29,135 233,168 40,416
1949 22,196 250,406 11.3 900 42,301 232,979 17,427
1950 22,198 368,313 16.6 269 84,027 229,106 139,207
1951 22,460 321,824 14.3 626 107,738 228,512 93,312
1952 22,279 282,349 12.7 502 76,620 225,569 56,780
1953 21,932 272,593 12.3 1,015 64,762 216,841 55,752
1954 20,760 246,748 11.9 3,075 51,323 217,716 29,032
1955 20,453 256,821 12.1 5,836 49,049 218,820 38,001
1956 19,982 184,170 9.2 6,416 40,746 215,114 -30,944
1957 20,415 267,677 13.1 8,848 38,635 208,870 58,807
1958 21,130 302,640 14.9 5,441 42,352 226,371 76,269
1959 20,350 222,768 10.9 6,007 34,291 234,611 -11,843
1960 20,098 248,195 12.4 8,172 12,220 234,611 13,584
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
Region main varieties
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
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
Region main varieties
East Kent (Canterbury, Faversham) Goldings
Mid Kent (Medway valley, Maidstone to Tonbridge) Fuggle's, Goldings
Weald of Kent (Tonbridge to Sussex) Fuggle's, Colegate
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.

1 comment:

Ed said...

Though British hop growing is now a shadow of its former self the Hereford and Worcester area now produces sligly more hops than Kent.