Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Red, white and green

The Brewers of Kent and Kentish Brewers are launching Kent Green Hop Beer Fortnight this year, a chance for those that like beer made with fresh, undried hops to drink green hopped beer from over twenty breweries. 

Exciting stuff I'm sure you'll agree, but for me there was even more excitement when we visited a hop garden on Friday. More exciting than green hopped beer I hear you ask? Oh yes, I saw some hop bines and it doesn't get much better than that.

A bunch of brewers basking in the bines
Amongst the varieties grown were two of the Golding clones (Early Bird and Cobbs). As I have spent a considerable amount of time researching Goldings and their origins, I was delighted to see some of the plants at last rather than just dried cones.

It was particularly fascinating for me as there were other varieties there too so I got to see the differences in bine colour of different hop varieties:

It's clear the Challenger has red coloured bines, but the pale green colour of the Cobb's bines is a little more complicated... Fortunately Peter Darby, from whom I first learnt about different coloured bines in hops, was on hand to offer his expertise.

The hop farmer showing us round the garden called the Goldings green bines and the Challenger red bines but when I discussed this later with Peter he pointed out that Goldings are in fact white bines.White bines on hops aren't actually white in colour, they generally green with red flecks, though can turn pink (but never red). It seems in the world of hop bines white is somewhere between red and green.

As a brewer I generally only see hops as dried cones, with generally (though not always!) nothing in the way of bines. Having now seen the distinctive differences in hop bine colours I wish I'd mentioned how the hop cones hang. The Farnham Whitebine was originally called the "White Bine Grape Hop" beacause as well as the distinctive bine colour the hops hung in bunches like grapes. I certainly thought the cones of the Cobbs and Early Birds hung in grape like bunches but didn't have the wit to talk about it when I had an expert beside me.

Cobbs: look like a white bine grape hop to me

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