On Monday night I saw Ali Capper from the British Hop Association and Paul Corbett from Charles Faram give talks on hops.
One things they seemed particularly focussed on was the wide range of British hop varieties. Despite producing only 1.6% of the world’s hops there are currently 20 varieties of hops grown in Britain, with several more in the pipeline.
Peter Darby's breeding work continues, with developing new growing methods and disease resistance two of the focuses of the programme. Beer geeks will be pleased to hear a wilt-resistant Fuggle replacement may be coming in only three or four years! Though perhaps they'll be even more pleased that developing hops with new aromas is another aim. Already Endeavour, a descendant of Cascade has gone into production, though it doesn't have the flavour intensity of its mother (or even Bramling Cross).
There’s more information on British hop varieties here.
Hop merchants Charles Faram have also got involved in hop breeding, though they're trying a fast track approach, aiming to get varieties in production in four years compared to the normal 11!
Three varieties are at the farm trial stage:
Minstrel, which has a traditional English aroma
Archer, which is more floral and
Jester, a descendant of American hops which has the characteristic grapefruit/black currant aroma.
10-12 other varieties are following behind them, including hops bred from Jester.
Four old English varieties have also been revived in the hope they'll meet approval with modern tastes. These are:
I've already written about the Keyworth's so I'll say no more about them.
Janus was another early wilt resistant variety, with a "mild Golding type aroma", which found some success in brewing trials and was grown up until at least 1972, though it seems only on a small scale (incidentally I also spotted that Tutsham held on until at least 1973 but that's another story).
Bullion dates from 1919 and was grown widely in the UK but had a strong flavour at the black currant end of things so many brewers weren't keen. It's still grown in the US.
I'm don't know whether any of these hops will be planted widely, but I'll certainly be looking out for them, and I hope that, as Ali Capper asked, more brewers list the hops they use as there's still a couple of the 20 established English varieties I don't think I've tried. A beer nerd's work is never done.