Wednesday 23 April 2014

Early hop varieties

Amongst the mound of beery things I've been reading of late has been the excellent 'The Hop Industry' by Hubert Parker. As is common in hop books there's a health history section and it includes more details of some information that's long intrigued me. The seminal booklet Old British Beers and How to Make Them contains some brief words on early hop varieties. The relevant passage is shown in the second picture down of this post.

Parker gives greater coverage, and quotes extensively from J. Mill's New System of Practical Husbandry (1763):

"there are several sorts (though the botanists allow but one species) of hops. The most esteemed are, the long white, the oval, and the long square garlic hop. These differ from each other in the colour and shape of their bells, or hops, in their degree of beauty, and in the time of ripening. The long white is  most valued because it is a great bearer, and produces the most beautiful hops; for the beauty of hop consists in their being of a pale bright green colour. The oval hop is beautiful but does not yield so large a crop. There is a sort of this kind of white hop, called the early or rath hop, which ripens a week or ten days before the common, and is therefore of advantage to those who would be first in the market, but is is tenderer than the other and does not bear near so plentifully. The long square garlic hop is the greatest bearer, more hardy, and somewhat later ripe than the former: but by reason of its nearness towards its stalk, it is not so beautiful to the eye, and therefore is not so much esteemed as the other sorts."

Handily the book is online, so I can say it's redness towards its stalk not nearness as Parker has it.

And I can quote further directly from Mills, giving information on the all important bine colours:

"The several kinds and goodness of hops may likewise be known by the colour of the vines, binds, or stalks. The whitish binds produce the white hop, both the long and the oval : the gray or greenish binds commonly yield the large square hops and the red binds bear the brown hop, which is the least esteemed."

 He later continues:

"There are two principal forts of hops, viz the green and the brown. The former yields by much, the best colour when dried, and the other is the most plentiful bearer. Brown hops are fit for brown ale, but the hops for fine pale beer must be green ; for which reason these last are most esteemed."

More from Parker will follow.


  1. Are "brown hops" still used today? I thought it was primarily the malt that turned "brown ales" brown.

  2. Hops can easily turn brown due to wind damage or infection but I'm pretty sure none are meant to be brown. Back in the day they did use the palest hops for pale beers but I don't know of anyone who worries about hop colour affecting their beer now.

    1. it is clearly a statement on using the spoiled hops for the non hop accented beer no?