It’s a pretty straightforward question and one which most brewers know the answer to. However not all agree. There are quite strong opinions about the different types available and whilst in the past hops were simply classified as Aroma and Alpha the market has changed quite significantly over the last few years and new lines have been drawn. The dividing line nowadays seems to be “traditional” versus “new world” flavours. Do you want the classic, delicate, easy drinking character of a Golding, Saaz or Mittlefruh or are you looking for the big, hoppy, fruity character of a Nelson Sauvin, Amarillo or Centennial? It is always fun to discover a beer drinkers opinions.
“I can’t drink more than a pint of the over hopped citrus bombs, they are just too much!”
“I don’t get any flavour from the traditional varieties, the flavours are just not enough!”
You have all no doubt heard the arguments and have your own opinions but in truth everyone is right. The challenge for the hop industry today is to produce this wide range of flavours and even to try and create different, exciting new ones.
The team at Charles Faram are one of the latest to take up the challenge. Ever since 2007 when Peter Glendinning started experimenting with a few new plants he had in his greenhouse the aim has been to try and find agronomically sound, exciting new varieties that will one day be produced commercially.
The results have been much better than were ever expected with a hit rate not experienced in many programmes like this before and credit must go to Peter for his perseverance and knowledge of what to look for when he is making selections from the huge range of different seedlings. Initially the programme was looking to try and create hedgerow hops with characteristics similar to Fuggle and Golding. At the time and still today growers struggle to grow these varieties economically as they are susceptible to disease, are not easy to pick and yield poorly compared to the newer varieties. The first varieties from the programme to come through to farm trials were Archer and Minstrel, both hedgerow varieties and both with a classic, traditional aroma with a slight twist due to their hedgerow parent. These are proving popular with growers and brewers alike but are not quite getting as much “airtime” due to their traditional flavours. They are expected to have a big future in craft markets worldwide who are looking for more of the traditional flavours as beer styles develop away from the high hits of the West Coast IPA style hops.
More recently the aim of the programme has changed; as the “new world” hops have become more popular in Europe the team have concentrated on bringing in some of these varieties to make crosses with the strong British rootstocks and create hybrids, something with the best of both worlds. The best way to assess these varieties has been initially through the Charles Faram sensory panel but then later with the help of UK brewers who have given excellent feedback from brewing trials.
This has led to expanded farm trials of the varieties Jester and Olicana, strong plants with “new world” aroma, excellent disease resistance and good yield. Although still in trials these hops have performed well beyond expectation and they are ready to take the next step to European plant variety rights this year which will make them fully commercial varieties. What is extremely exciting is that there are more varieties coming through the programme which have new intense aromas and delightful flavours.
Not content with just developing their own varieties, Farams have got involved with and sponsored the British Hop Association programme of new seedlings in their search for great new flavours. This programme is being led by Hop Guru Peter Darby and already there have been some superb discoveries amongst the existing plant material. The hops have been assessed for aroma in the field back in September last year and again in the showroom dried. The most promising have had cuttings taken and will have farm plots planted this year. These will be assessed again after harvest and hopefully there will be enough material for a few brewing trials.
The message is to definitely watch this space for other new British varieties over the next couple of years.
Contrary to popular belief Charles Faram & Co is still one of the smallest Hop Merchants in the UK. Whilst other dealers are owned by multi-national conglomerates Faram prides itself in being 100% British owned and is very closely associated with its growers. Indeed, the main shareholding is grower owned. That said another exciting development at Farams is the opening of its new cold storage facility and sales desk in the Yakima Valley, USA. The store is in the centre of one of the main hop growing regions of the world and is ideally placed for collections of US hops off farms and storage of British, New Zealand and European varieties for onward sales to US brewers. Two new appointments have been made to increase the grower and brewer liaison opportunities with Sean McGree (Ex BSG) and Jennifer Stevens (ex YCH hops) joining Farams in the last few months.
In the UK Farams have developed their portfolio to include other brewing raw materials and products to make all your brewing requirements as accessible as possible. The most recent addition is the Dolium one trip keg. It had been difficult for Dolium to get their products to the market and fulfil regular, reliable supplies from a UK store. The link up with Faram has provided this and is already producing repeat business for these easy to use kegs.
Check out the Faram website or get in touch with the sales team for an up to date picture of all the products available. Whether its hops, malt, dried yeast, finings, kegs, sensory training kits, bottle tops or closures they are very keen to hear from you.