Tuesday, 1 March 2016

Hops in 1944

I’m going back in time a little. To when the war was still on. Times were still tough, but British brewers were already looking forward to a world without war.

By our Special Correspondent

BOUND up with the maintenance of public morale is the provision of adequate supplies of beer, and to this end brewers and farmers are working assiduously. It is therefore good to know that as far as one ingredient of beer is concerned—hops—there is satisfactory news to report. True there has been until very recently an absence of rain in the South and Midland areas, but fortunately, rain is not essential at this stage of the hops development. It is later, towards the end of July, that moisture is most essential. The frosts, which virtually destroyed the fruit crops, had little effect on the hops and consequently, speaking generally, our ran say that the young plants have wintered well and barring unforeseen troubles the prospects be good. It was anticipated that mere might be insufficient labour for the work of hop-tying, but it seems this has been largely overcome, thanks to the assistance of many volunteers. Shortage of labour and fertilisers will continue to be the farmers' worry so long as the war lasts, and maybe even for some time afterwards. However, the agricultural community has wrought miracles during the past four years, and no doubt will continue to do so in the future, always provided that the weather is favourable, and granted this prerequisite, a satisfactory yield in 1944 may be expected.”
“Journal of the Incorporated Brewers Guild 1944”, page 145.

A shortage of labour and materials. That pretty much sums up the war years and their immediate aftermath. What always strikes me about the British approach in WW II is the pragmatism. And being realistic. They realised peace wouldn’t immediately solve all their problems.

By and large, Britain was lucky with the weather during WW II. There were bumper crops in some years. Like with hops in 1943:

“The general hop position is better now than was the case this time last year. The average holding of brewers is reported to be sufficient to maintain the present consumption rate until the middle of December, 1944. This improvement is due to the larger crop produced in 1943. The Hops Marketing board received 168,764 pockets, as compared with 151,496 pockets of the 1942 crop, or an increase of 12,600. This extra production, as brewers will remember, permitted the delivery of 95% of all contracts compared with 80% the previous season. It is interesting to note, however, that the increase in quantity was accompanied by a decrease in quality, at least when judged by preservative value. The July 1943 issue of this Journal published the average preservative values of the best known varieties of the crop, determined from analyses of a large number of samples. Below is a comparative table of the two crops.

1942 crop 1943 crop
alpha resins beta resins P.V. alpha resins beta resins P.V.
Fuggles 5.75 6.97 81 4.97 8.88 79
Goldings Varieties 6.2 7.62 87 5.65 8.35 84
Goldings 6.33 6.99 90 5.27 8.69 82

“Journal of the Incorporated Brewers Guild 1944”, page 145.

Being able to supply 95% of the hops was pretty good going. There had been some difficult times with hops. Like in 1940 when one of the first raids of the London Blitz destroyed a third of that year’s crop. Too late they realised storing virtually the whole harvest in central London (Southwark) wasn’t a great idea. The government ordered a 20% cut in hop rates to preserve supplies.

What drew me to this article were the fact it gave details of the alpha and beta acid content of the hops. The values for 1942 are quite a bit higher than BeerSmith tells me they should be.

Next time we’ll be looking at preservative value and how it was calculated.

1 comment:

J. Karanka said...

Ha, if hops of old were more bitter than the modern equivalents that would silence quite a lot of those people that claim Victorian ales had plenty of hops because they were weak. I wouldn't be surprised if changes in farming practices would have actually made hops more abundant but less flavourful (a bit like thinning fruit trees making the fruit tastier).