The UK currently grows 16 hops for commercial use. The current acreage for UK hops is around 2,500 which is just 2% of the world hop-growing market. At one point in history, the UK grew 77,000 acres worth of hops. What went wrong?
M&B are releasing a new beer across their pubs call Top of the Hops, brewed by The Great Yorkshire Brewery at Cropton. It uses 2012 different hop varieties and all of those hops were grown in Britain. The majority of these are varieties not ready for commercial use yet, bolstered by the ones which are available.
Using 2012 different hops is a bit of a statement. Personally, I think it’s a brilliant idea, not for the story of using so many varieties, but because it’s highlighting the British hop industry at a time when American and New World hops are getting all the attention. The fact that only 16 British hop varieties (Charles Faram currently stock 35 different US varieties) are available for commercial use is a bit sad, but that there are almost 2000 which aren’t yet ready, but might be one day, is very exciting.
The last few years has seen the Americanization of British beer but I hope that 2012, alongside the delicious US-inspired stuff, could see more British hops from the more prominent British brewers, showing the great flavours they can give. It’s also interesting to know that new UK hops are being developed specifically to have similar citrus and fruity flavours to American varieties.
Top of the Hops is available in December, January and February from M&B pubs. I haven’t tried it yet but in support of the British hop industry I want to and I will. In a few years we could be seeing a lot more variety in British hops and that’s exciting. British hops used well is a great thing, right?