You need a touch of romance in your soul to love English hops. They're not exactly flavour of the month, or year, or decade. The past half-century has seen a precipitous decline in the number of them grown; younger drinkers are now more interested in New World varieties, with their citrus and tropical-fruit charms.
There are corners of resistance. Deep in the heart of east Kent (where the most romantic of all English hops, the lavender-and-thyme-tinged East Kent Golding, is grown) you'll find Eddie Gadd, a genial Northerner who has made this part of the world his home. His brewery, Gadds', is a flag bearer for this quirky region's hops.
"I like their balance," he says about East Kent Goldings. "In the US, they're massively popular."
Two years ago, Eddie organised the Kent Green Hop Beer Fortnight (wherein beers are brewed with fresh rather than dried hops) to coincide with the harvest. This year's event is the most popular yet, with 25 Kentish breweries involved.
There are others fighting to keep English hops alive. There's Dr Peter Darby of Wye Hops, a one-man encyclopaedia of hop knowledge, and Worcestershire grower Ali Capper, who is working hard to improve the image of the British crop. Charles Faram, hop merchants, are pioneering new, fuller-flavoured varieties. There are now even hops grown commercially in Yorkshire.
Nonetheless, English hops need support. The fortnight kicks off in Canterbury this weekend; if you're a romantic sort, I suggest you get down there.
Three to try
Old Dairy Blue Top
A delicate balance of spicy hops and caramel malt. 4.8 per cent, £2.95 for 500ml, beermerchants.com
Westerham Viceroy IPA
Made with hops from the National Trust's farm at Scotney Castle. Lovely dry finish. 5 per cent, £2.20 for 500ml, westerhambrewery.co.uk
Gadds' No 3
Like pale, hoppy beer? This is what it tastes like when made with Kentish hops. Insanely drinkable. 5.2 per cent, £2.21 for 500ml, eebria.comReuse content