With 2 weeks to go until Harvest, we thought it was about time we should give you a little Hop update, or a Hopdate if you will!
It looks like Matthew has got his timings spot on with the first of the Fuggles and Farnham White Bine hops appearing this week. This means that the first hops will be picked on the 31st August and taken straight into the brewhouse for Green-hopping our limited edition Green TEA available at the Hop Harvest Festival.
Have a read of our Hop Garden blog as we prepare action stations ahead of Harvest 21 - our biggest harvest to date.
In preparation for the harvest, Matthew and Bruce started by testing all of the Hop picking equipment including 'The Wolf' the large Picking machine in the Hogs Back Tap Hangar as well as the kiln which doubles up as our stage space. Our traditional Macey Ferguson tractor has had a clean bill of health from the garage and has been fitted with a new tool which will cut the bines before being pulled onto the trailer for the team to pull in. Before, a member of the team had to go ahead of the tractor with a scythe cutting the bines which meant that if done too soon the hops would start to dry out on the bines or cut too late and it would slow done the harvesting process.
This will be our third harvest from our new Hop Garden but the first one at full capacity now that the hop plants are fully ingratiated from the move across from the old site. Whereas the plants have struggled in the first 2 harvests to reach the top of the wires and then fill out, this year the vast majority have rushed to the top and then started to spray out lots of lateral growth. Matthew has been constantly running up and down the alleys making sure that we do not have problems with weeds and wind-blown seeds setting up roots amongst the hops, stifling their growth.
The traditional British hop varieties of Fuggles and Farnham White bine have enjoyed our slightly more inclement summer this year, not getting too dried out or scorched in the heat. Matthew will start his inspections next week of the quality expected by performing a rubbing to release the natural hop oils which give off their beautiful aroma. The Cascade hops, who originate from California, are still waiting for the summer sun to arrive (good luck there!) so we are currently expecting to start harvesting them 2 weeks later. Still they have developed the beautiful hop burrs or little flowers which will transform into cones by the bank holiday weekend.
This year we will be getting help from the brilliant new volunteer group, The Hogs Back Hoppers. Matthew and garden assistant/tour guide Bruce ran a launch event at the Hogs Back Tap for the 20 or so new volunteers to get them prepared not just for the harvest, but for other tasks that need doing throughout the year in the Garden. As a thanks for their help they will get paid in takeaway beer following their morning or afternoon in the garden - what's not to like?
The garden is looking at its absolute best at the moment so we have opened some more spaces and tours for this week and next to go on a Hop Garden tour. If you would like to book, please click here to choose a date.