From Bine to Brew: A Green Hop Photo Journey
Late last month, on a slightly grey and windy Thursday morning, we drove down to Hukins Hops in Kent to collect 120kg of green hops for our Green Hop Bullion Bitter. Scroll on through this photo essay to see the journey that these Bullion hops took that day, from their harvest from the bines in the morning, to their use in the brew that afternoon.
8.15am: We leave London and head, in our Five Points Pale van, to Tenterden, Kent.
Fresh hops – those that have not been dried or processed and are instead used in the brew just hours after picking – lend unique spicy, grassy and floral aromas to beer. Each year, the hop harvest inspires brewers across the country to celebrate the hop harvest and hop varieties in their purest, unprocessed form.
10.00am: We arrive at Hukins Hops.
Hukins Hops is a family owned, fourth generation hop farm in Kent, which has been specialising in hop growing for over 120 years, and is currently owned and run by Ross Hukins. It is this time of year – the few short weeks of the harvest season – that the farm kicks into overdrive, picking the year’s worth of hops from their fields.
10.05am: Our brewer Rebecca says a quick ‘hello’ to a friendly farm dog.
10.15am: We hitch a lift on the trailer down to the Bullion field, where the harvesting began at 6am that morning.
10.30am: We take a tour around the Bullion fields to watch the harvest in progress.
During the hop harvest, a group is led by a cutter, who chops down each bine (all 120,000 on the farm are cut by hand). Two tractors trail behind, the first with a picker, whose job it is to grab as many freshly cut bines as they can. The second tractor contains a crow’s nest, where someone retrieves the bines tangled in the wires. Once full, the tractor returns to the farmhouse full of hops, ready for separating from their leaves and twigs.
10.45am: We check out the distinctive aromas of blackcurrant and zesty citrus from the Bullion hops.
Bullion hops are known for their “New World” characteristics and zesty citrus and blackcurrant flavours. The variety returned to the hop farming landscape after a thirty year hiatus, following their reintroduction to the farm by Peter Hukins, Ross Hukins’ father. Last year’s Bullion crop won first prize in the IBD Hop Awards in 2017.
10:55am: Back at the farm, the bines are lifted up and fed into the processing machine.
Once the bines are cut down and loaded onto the tractor, they are processed in a hop picking machine. Each bine is loaded individually by hand, where it is picked up by a hook and stripped of its flowers. The flowers are put through a sorting machine to remove any string, leaves or vines still attached.
11:00am: The hops are separated from the leaves, foliage and twigs.
11.10am: The end result! Handfuls of fresh, zesty Bullion hops.
11.20am: We take a tour around the oast house.
These hops, destined for the kiln, are placed on a conveyor belt and put into pokes (loose jute bags). They head to the oast house, where the hop kiln is located, to be transformed into the dried hops that are brewed with throughout the year. The Hukins’ farm has three kilns that can take up to three tonnes of hops each, burning around the clock. It’s a tricky process and the hops need to be closely monitored throughout this crucial stage. Once they hit a moisture content of 10%, they’re ready to be pressed and packaged.
11:30am: We’re ready to take our hops home to Hackney! We box them up and say goodbye, and thank you, to the Hukins farm team.
11.40am: Quick team snap with our lovely tour guide, and Sales Manager for Hukins Hops, Glenn. Until next year, folks!
12:30pm: We arrive back at our brewery in Hackney and start to unload the hops.
1:00pm: We stack our boxes of green hops next to the brewkit, ready to go into the boil.
1.15pm: Rebecca gets ready to brew.
1.30pm: We rescue this little guy from the boil.
2pm: The hops are added to the kettle and their journey, from bine to brew, is complete.
Our Bullion green hop journey is over! It was great to have an insight into the harvest process from very start to finish – and we hope we’ve given you an insight, too. Now, we just can’t wait to drink our Green Hop beers…
Launch of The Five Points Green Hop Series at The Pembury Tavern!
Our Green Hop Bullion Bitter will launch at The Pembury Tavern, our new pub in Hackney, running between the 11th – 14th October. We will be featuring our three Green Hop Series beers in addition to green-hopped beers from Canopy Beer, East London Brewing Company, Gadd’s Hale Brewing, The Kernel Brewery, and Pig & Porter . Find out more information here.