A couple of weeks ago I received a price list from Charles Faram, the main UK hop merchants to us smaller breweries. I was mainly interested in a section of the list which was titled ‘Charles Faram Hop Development Programme’. This section details the experimental UK hops which the UK growers, in partnership with Charles Faram, are researching and have for sale to brewers who are willing to test them. All they ask for in return for all this work is that we provide feedback on the finished product, so that they can decide whether to increase planting if there is enough demand for a certain hop’s qualities.
The hop which took my eye was entitled CF105 – tantalisingly known as ‘Keyworth E’. The characteristics were noted as lemon and grapefruit, right up my street. So this week I managed to grab a mere 5kg – the last 5kg of the harvest – with a view to doing a single hopped pale-ish session beer. Not too much malt characteristic, a sprinkle of caramalt and munich. Eager to learn more about the hop, I asked Paul Corbett, the MD of Charles Faram, to email me some more details. This is the information I received:
“CF105 (Keyworths Early) was developed in 1930 as part of a breeding programme (see attached) using hops derived from a Neo-Mexicanus parent. It was originally bred to try and develop Verticillium Wilt resistant varieties for the UK market.
Like many varieties developed from this programme it was very successful with disease resistance but did have a drawback; the strong “Manitoban”, “Tom Cat” aroma. Brewers of the day were very reluctant to use it because of these strong flavours. I have some booklets from the Association Of Growers Of the New Varieties Of Hops (AGNVH) dating back to 1950 where acreage of CF105 (Keyworths Early) had increased to 43 acres and CF107 (Keyworths Midseason) to 133 acres; quite significant in todays terms.
These varieties were being recommended for growing on Wilt infected land where other more traditional varieties had failed. In the 1950’s (and still today) this was a huge benefit to the growers but the brewers were looking to produce industrial quantities of Mild and Bitter with traditional Fuggle/Golding flavours and so over the next few years the acreage decreased and finally disappeared due to negative feedback about the flavours produced.
Our testing today is to find out if it still contains those big US aromas or whether all the years in the British climate and soil have anglicised the variety into a more traditional British flavour.”
This is all very interesting, and it definitely indicates that the British hop growers are actively seeking out new (or, in this case, old) flavours in order to try and compete with imported hops, and in this case I can only encourage them – by brewing beer with the hops that they have worked hard to grow for us.
I’ve actually been brewing the beer as I’ve been typing all of this out, and I have to say that the aroma from the fermenter is very encouraging. There’s a lot of citrus and a lot of the ‘cattiness’ which is desirable to many nowadays, but there’s also an underlying ‘Britishness’, a nice spicy orange zest aroma. I won’t be able to fully tell what the flavours in the taste will be like for a few days but that, for me, is one of the main reasons that I like using these hops – the result will be unknown until the yeast has done its job.