Growers hope ale label will raise profile of British hops

A new ale which supports British hop growers has gone on sale across the UK this week.

Harversting British hops at Yorkshire Hops, Ellerker.

In recent years the demand for British hops has fallen as brewers have responded to the boom in US-styled craft beers and have been using ‘New World’ hops instead.

The trend has prompted the British Hop Association (BHA) to urge UK brewers to support the country’s hop growers.

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There are just over 50 farmers growing British hops in the country today. First grown in the South-East, more than half of British hop production is now centred in the West Midlands but the boom in the number of new micro breweries set up as beer drinking increasingly turned to real ale should mean there are ample opportunities in the marketplace to compete and make British hops a staple of locally brewed real ale.

In the early 1970s there were just 40 breweries left in Britain but today, there are 1,285 - the most since the 1930s and 40s.

A hop growing operation in Ellerker, East Yorkshire was set up by Chris Bradley and Matthew Hall to capitalise on the growing appetite real ale and they have had some early success at the end of their second year of growing. Their venture, Yorkshire Hops, has seen them supply British hops to breweries such as Black Sheep and Ossett.

Now, in a move which growers hope will add momentum to the British hops message, Tesco has become the first major retailer to carry the BHA’s logo on a new own label beer called Single Hopped Kentish Ale.

Danielle Jack, the retailer’s beer developer, said: “British hops are amongst the finest in the world and should be celebrated in great British beers. There is a huge variety of British grown hops to choose from with a wonderful array of aroma characteristics to be explored.”

The beer, produced by award-winning Kent-based brewers Shepherd Neame, is made with East Kent Goldings hops and is described as having a distinct smooth taste with malty undertones, enhanced by uplifting botanical hop notes, slightly spicy with delicate herbal aromas.

Ali Capper, of the BHA, said: “The new single hopped beer from Tesco is great support for British hop growers and is a significant step in furthering our cause.”

Yorkshire farmer Guy Poskitt, who is horticulture and potatoes board chairman for the National Farmers’ Union, added: “We are really pleased that Tesco is now proudly displaying the British Hop Association logo on some of its beer packaging and showing how it is backing British farming.

“This country’s hop growers are rightly proud of the many world class varieties they produce and Tesco’s backing only serves to show how the industry is continuing to grow and to be held in high esteem abroad and at home.”