Docker Brewery – Wye College Pale Ale

Wye College – Pale Ale 4.2% ABV

Hops Used – Phoenix, Pioneer, Challenger Primadonna, Bullion

After starting in a shipping container in Folkestone Harbour, Docker brewery expanded to a 10-barrel kit in 2019, just as the pandemic started to take effect. Like many breweries facing the complications and challenges of lockdown restrictions, the Docker team took the decision to purchase a canning machine to ensure beer production could continue in small pack.

Now in 2022 sales have gradually started to pick up again and they find themselves with a beer range that has naturally diversified into cask, can and keg. While initially focussing on Pale Ales with much loved US and New World hops Docker were keen to expand their beer horizons, bring new flavours to their customers’ attention and support UK hop growers where possible.

They’d noticed that there was a new wave of independent craft brewers across the industry that were doing very interesting things with British hop varieties that weren’t brewed with any of the usual hop suspects that had dominated in recent years.

The search for something different.

As a brewery based in Kent, Docker had the advantage of being completely surrounded by hop history with many traditional British varieties grown on their doorstep. In addition to this the brewery is located only 10 miles away from the famous centre of hop research and cultivation, Wye College which was to become the inspiration for their new range of English-style Pale Ales.

While many of the classic British hops from the area are well-known and well-used by well-established cask focussed breweries, Pete Nelson Head Brewer at Docker was determined to discover a British hop that would provide something different and unique, but still with enough of a firm flavour punch that would appeal to their core craft beer fan base. This could either be a modern reinvention of an already popular British hop or perhaps even more interestingly a revival of some lesser-known varieties that had been forgotten or were underutilised by the craft or independent breweries.

With the vast selection of hops that had been developed over the years at Wye College Pete was confident that with a little research and experimentation he could find what he was looking for. So the quest began to develop a unique hop bill that only included hops originating from work done at the college and were only grown in the UK.

Phoenix Hops

The search started with special varieties grown in the immediate vicinity of the brewery such as Primadonna (First Gold) and Bullion and then expanded to include Endeavour and Phoenix which Pete was able to try first hand at the Brook House Hops stand at Beer X. After sampling our Phoenix he immediately felt it could provide the difference he was looking for in the dry-hopping stage, especially if it was paired with Challenger and First Gold in the kettle. They set to work trying different combinations of these hops at various stages in initial small-batch trials in order to perfect the flavour and aroma balance.

Docker had also chosen to use WHC yeast as a backbone to this beer which they found was excellent at bringing out stronger fruit flavours.

Phoenix hops are a versatile variety that suits a wide variety of beer styles, and in terms of flavour profile sits nicely between Old and New World hops. It was developed at Wye College and released for general cultivation in 1996. It is still a little-known hop as it was originally grown and sold to just one brewer, but we’ve been able to get outstanding results from our recent crops and its undertone of lemon-citrus, pears, green tea and dark fruits gives it a mellow sweetness that is making it increasingly popular with brewers.

The full hop bill for Wye College Pale Ale included Primadonna, Challenger, Endeavour, Bullion, Phoenix and Pioneer and the beer is currently available in cask and keg and is part of the core range of Pale Ales from Docker.

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