Brewer picks first green hops from his Salle hopyard
- Credit: Copyright: Archant 2015
The first batch of Norfolk green-hopped beer is being brewed using crops harvested from a new hopyard – which the grower believes is the only one of its kind in the county.
Simon Barker, a retired psychiatrist, established his micro-brewery in converted agricultural buildings at Salle Moor Farm, near Reepham.
And in order to ensure the best local ingredients, he built his own quarter-acre commercial hop yard earlier this year and planted almost 400 hop rhizomes, or rootstalks, in February.
This week, aided by fellow enthusiasts and assistant brewers Julian Van-Emmerik and Stuart Martin, he picked the first hops from the 18ft climbing plants, which are trained to grow up trellises made from coir strings, anchored by 7m wooden poles.
Mr Barker said 34kg had been picked by Wednesday, and he expects the total yield to be 200kg for the first year.
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'That is a lot more than I expected,' he said. 'I had fairly low expectations for the first year, as the crops are still establishing themselves, so to get anything at all is brilliant.
'They are looking good, there is good aroma and plenty of oil there. I have not tested for alpha acids yet, which is what the big boys grade their hops on. That helps with the bittering, but it is not such a relevance to me as a craft brewer. I am more interested in the hop oils which give the unique flavours and aromas.'
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Mr Barker said the plants would reach optimum yield from their third year onwards, and could be productive for up to 20 years.
There are five British varieties including the quintessential Goldings and Fuggles, but he has also grown some Saaz, a Czech hop used in Bohemian lager, and some Cascade, which is widely used in America.
Mr Barker expects to finish brewing his early-season green-hopped ale in the coming weeks.
Although he intends to use the majority of his crop in his own brewery, he hopes to offer any surplus to fellow members of the East Anglian Brewers Co-operative so they can work together on collaborative Norfolk brews.
He eventually plans to make his own malt, also in conjunction with other brewers, using barley grown at the surrounding Salle Moor Farm, adding to the super-local provenance of his beer.
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