For those who have enjoyed a Hop Garden tour already this summer, you will have seen how our hops are growing in this lovely summer sun. After a year to bed in and get used to their new surroundings, the plants seem to be settling into life on the slopes of Manor Farm. On the old site, they would reach the maximum height of 12ft before pushing out lateral or sideways growth, but now they have an additional 4ft to grow. That might not sound like very much but that makes a huge difference to the hops and our potential yield from the garden.
Now that they have reached the top and can't go any higher, the plants have started focusing their energies on flower production. In hops this takes the form of hop pins which become burrs, tiny little flowers which run all the way up the bines. These prove irresistible to little insects such as damselflies and dragonflies which dart in and out of the alleys. Hop Gardener Matthew also encourages Ladybirds to make their homes amongst the plants to keep all the pests at bay - nature's pesticides! In the last few days these burrs have started to transform into the hop cones which contain all the aroma we need for our brews.
This year we are expecting to take our first commercial harvest from the garden and have been getting everything in place to be entirely self-sufficient from harvest through to packing. Back in June we took delivery of the Hop Picker and Kiln and in the next few weeks we will also add the vacuum packing machinery. This will take the hops dried from the kiln and pack them in sealed bags which will help hold in their flavour until we are ready to brew with them.
Work on the Hop Kiln continues
The harvest will all be processed in our Hop Hanger which is acting as the Summer Bar throughout August. The Hop Kiln next door is being prepared as our long term taproom space at the brewery whilst the Hop Hanger will become an event space for us and to hire out for parties and functions when we're not harvesting. The designers have been keen to celebrate the traditional architecture from the brewing industry when designing the Hop Kiln. They have been preserving and renovating the glorious brick arches of the kiln to maintain it's traditional looks and have also sourced columns from the malting rooms of the old Brains Brewery site in Cardiff. It will be fitted with a thoroughly modern bar space with big folding glass doors and a terrace overlooking the Hop Garden.
Keep your eyes peeled to our social media over the next few weeks to see updates from our Hop Garden and Hop Kiln.