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.

Walking through the fields at Hukins hop farm in Kent

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.

The Five Points Pale van at Hukins in Kent

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.

Five Points staff playing with a dog at Hukins Hops in Kent

10.15am: We hitch a lift on the trailer down to the Bullion field, where the harvesting began at 6am that morning. 

Five Points staff on the trailer during green hop harvest at Hukins Hops in Kent

10.30am: We take a tour around the Bullion fields to watch the harvest in progress.

The green hop harvest at Hukins Hops in Kent

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.

Smelling green hops during harvest at Hukins Hops in Kent

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.

Staff at Hukins Hops process green hops during harvest

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.

Green hops being harvested at Hukins in Kent

11.10am: The end result! Handfuls of fresh, zesty Bullion hops.

A hand holding out whole-cone green hops from Hukins Hops in Kent

11.20am: We take a tour around the oast house.

Fresh green hops ready for beer at Hukins in Kent

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.

Five Points staff holding a box of green hops at Hukins in Kent

11.40am: Quick team snap with our lovely tour guide, and Sales Manager for Hukins Hops, Glenn. Until next year, folks!

Five Points and Hukins Hops staff pack green hops into the van for Green Hop Bitter

12:30pm: We arrive back at our brewery in Hackney and start to unload the hops.

Five Points staff unpack green hops destined for Green Hop Bitter

1:00pm: We stack our boxes of green hops next to the brewkit, ready to go into the boil.

Boxes of green hops from Hukins in Kent at The Five Points Brewing Company in Hackney

1.15pm: Rebecca gets ready to brew.

A brewer handles green hops at The Five Points Brewing Company in Hackney

1.30pm: We rescue this little guy from the boil. 

A ladybird on a whole cone green hop

2pm: The hops are added to the kettle and their journey, from bine to brew, is complete.

A bucket of Green Hops at The Pembury Tavern

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!

Poster for The Pembury Tavern Five Points Green Hop Beer Festival 2018

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 BrewingThe Kernel Brewery, and Pig & Porter . Find out more information here.