The Quality of English Hops
Hops deteriorate if left in ambient stores after packing. Alpha acid levels decline and aroma becomes stale. It is essential that they are put into chilled storage. Samples of dried hops are analysed to ensure that there are no harmful residues on the cones. Numbering the packed hops as they come off the kilns gives traceability back to the garden that the hops came from. Aroma is lost once the pack of dried hops is opened. It is best to use a pack size suited to the brewery usage. Spray records are kept for each field and are submitted to the marketing office.
Hop growers are very aware of the environment. Crop protection chemical usage has reduced in recent years. Although it is very difficult to produce a wholly organic crop in the English climate, growers are making increasing use of disease-resistant varieties. The pests aphid and two-spotted spider mite are difficult to control but growers are increasing the use of predatory mites to control the spider mite. Flowering plants, such as phacelia, are sown around hop gardens to encourage beneficial insects, such as anthrocorides and ladybirds.
Growers are very aware of the damage to soils growing an intensive crop such as hops that can occur. Minimal cultivation, liberal use of organic fertilisers such as compost and the sowing of green mulches that can be incorporated into the soil all help to keep a healthy soil.
Oil burners for drying hops are gradually being phased out and replaced by gas. Irrigation by trickle systems and the use of reservoirs to save water is now widely used in drier areas of the country.
English hop growers today are representative of a long traditional trade. Many families have grown the crop for several generations. They take a pride in the quality of their product and the history behind it. Records of the Institute of Brewing Hop Competition are full of the names of previous prize winners many of whom are still producing quality hops today.