Hop Harvest 2022 is officially complete for Brook House Hops. We spoke to Henry just after the last bines were processed to get his immediate thoughts on the stand-out hops from the crop of 2022.
“We had a good harvest last year and managed to produce some fantastic award-winning hops that brewers were really pleased with, so the pressure was on for the team to deliver again this year.
Trouble is, as with all farming, Mother Nature is fundamentally in control. Our job is to be able to quickly adapt any plans we make so that we can work with the changing weather and growing conditions rather than constantly battle against them. It shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone in farming these days when extreme weather comes along and really tests your ability to cope!
Be ready for extreme weather
The major challenge for us this year was the extreme heat and lack of rainfall in July and August. We had to be very disciplined with our management of moisture levels in the soil to stand any chance of maintaining a healthy crop. Fortunately, our detailed soil mapping data, fertiliser regime and several long weeks of night-time spraying allowed us to just about stay on top of the worst of the dry spells. However, until we actually pick and process the hops there is always a small part of you that is nervous about the effect on the finished product.
Most varieties outperforming expectations
It is very satisfying to be able to stand here after harvest and say that the vast majority of our hops have outperformed our expectations with several varieties yielding more hops of greater quality than we’ve seen before. Ironically this is likely to be due to the higher temperatures which have certainly helped one or two hop varieties to thrive. The stand-out varieties from my perspective that brewers should definitely take a closer look at are our UK Cascade, Challenger, Pilgrim and Admiral.
UK Cascade was one of the final hops we harvested and we may have unknowingly saved the best until last. Usually Cascade plays second fiddle to UK Chinook in terms of the intensity of its aroma. This year however the Cascade has been simply unbelievable! The aromas in the picking shed were mouth-wateringly good and left us all craving a cold fresh pint as soon as we’d finished work. We expect to get grapefruit, orange and lychee but this fruitiness was enhanced with rich berry-like aromas too. It would be a great starting point for an English IPA, Pale Ale or Golden Ale.
Our alpha or bittering hops are usually head and shoulders above what you’d normally expect from British varieties and are often among the first to sell out. My gut feeling immediately after this year’s harvest is that Pilgrim, Admiral and particularly Challenger will be very popular again. Our Challenger hops are a stunning fluorescent green and some of the largest hop cones we’ve seen this year. Those brewers that joined us on the hop walks will have seen this first hand. The lupulin was bursting out of it, which has made the hop nice and sticky with lots of essential oils and a deliciously sweet fruit aroma with a hint of spice in the background.
Post-harvest can be a strange time. After such an intense period there is suddenly a lull where you probably have too way much time to reflect on whether we should have done anything differently. There have been lot of long hours, hard work and several sleepless nights to get to this point, but I’m so proud of the team and am confident that the hops we’ve produced this year are some of our very best, which means that some very special beers are not too far behind.”