Horticultural society ‘hoppy’ to help brewery create North Norfolk ale

A hop garden has been planted in Sheringham. L-R, Ian Hudson, Paddy Corden, Ralph Smith, Bob Wilkins

A hop garden has been planted in Sheringham. L-R, Ian Hudson, Paddy Corden, Ralph Smith, Bob Wilkinson and Tony Chadwick, pictured with David Holliday. Picture: Norfolk Brewhouse - Credit: Archant

A truly North Norfolk ale is on the way after the Sheringham Horticultural Society and the Norfolk Brewhouse teamed up to plant a hop garden.

Norfolk is famed for its top quality malting barley, particularly Maris Otter, which thrives in the coastal climate and soils, but another key ingredient for real ale – hops – is usually associated with Kent and other countries.

However, all that is set to change as the local team of enthusiastic amateurs have planted 30 plants in their hop garden.

The gauntlet was laid down by brewery owner David Holliday at a talk to the society last year.

Society chairman Ian Hudson said: 'David was incredibly passionate about Maris Otter barley and what it meant to Norfolk, not just in terms of making beer, but also in terms of putting our county and its farmers on the global map.

'However, he also expressed his sadness at the lack of Norfolk hop growers and the huge cost it takes to grow the crop commercially, despite massive demand. When he said he would love to create a beer which was truly North Norfolk in a glass, a few of us took up the challenge.'

Mr Hudson and five other society members, Paddy Corden, Ralph Smith, Bob Wilkinson, Kevin Coleman and Tony Chadwick identified a plot of land that had lain unused at Beeston Allotments, and set about clearing it.

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Meanwhile, Mr Holliday sought the help of his hop merchant Charles Faram and it was agreed that traditional British varieties of Goldings, Fuggles, Challenger and Cascade would grow best in the area.

The plants are now in the soil, and while some flowers – the part used for flavouring and adding bitterness to ale – will be produced this year the first main crop will be harvested in September 2018 and give rise to Sheringham's own Norfolk ale, brewed at The Norfolk Brewhouse in Hindringham.

Mr Holliday said: 'We will get a real sense of community and pride in procuring the beer as we will literally use only ingredients form North Norfolk, which will include the water as we use our own well water.

'We intend to produce a green hop beer which is very traditional in Kent. Essential green hops mean using them in the beer as soon as they are harvested, without drying them. You really can't get a fresher flavour than that.'