Second healthy hop harvest expected

We’re preparing for our second hop harvest this September, with expectations of a healthy crop thanks to favourable weather and skilful tending of the hop plants in the 3.5 acre garden, adjacent to the Brewery in Tongham, Surrey.

The 2016 harvest is expected to be between 40-50 zentners*, or 2,000–2,500 kilos, which is more than double last year’s crop.

We have continued to cultivate the same three hops we grew for our first harvest in 2015. These are the popular British varieties Fuggles and Cascade, along with Farnham White Bine, a local variety that was once prized for its aroma, but which had been ‘extinct’ until last year’s revival.

We used Farnham White Bine to create a single hop beer, Farnham White, which was initially available as a limited edition cask ale, and has now been launched as a bottled ale exclusive to Waitrose.

Managing director, Rupert Thompson said, “We’re looking forward to our second harvest. Last year, we left a lot of hops on the bine rather than picking them, in order to create stronger plants, so we’re hoping to literally reap the rewards this time with a yield of excellent quality hops.

“We doubled the number of strings to support the hop plants from two to four this year, and we’ve also been blessed with more hop-friendly weather with warmth, rain and sunshine at the right points in the growing cycle.

“The hop garden is a huge investment for us and we’re in it for the long term, learning and improving as we go. We’re delighted with the beers we produced from our own hops last season and excited about the potential that the hop garden gives us to create unique beers in the future. It also makes us a little more resilient than other brewers to the global hop shortage, particularly as we expand our plantings in future years to use more of our own hops in our beers, rather than buying in.”

He added, “Consumer interest in the hop garden has been bigger than we expected; 250 people came to our harvest party last year. In a crowded beer market, being the only UK brewer to grow our own hops gives us a point of difference that resonates with a growing number of consumers who are interested in sustainability and environmental issues.”

Planting the hop garden in 2014, the first harvest was in September 2015. The initiative has already won accolades from the industry, with the British Beer & Pub Association’s Grain-to-Glass Award 2015 recognising the brewer’s commitment to sustainability and local community engagement and, earlier this year, the Society of Independent Brewers’ Business Innovation Award.

*The zentner is a traditional agricultural measurement of about 50 kilos, still used to measure hop harvests.