A Worcestershire hop grower has teamed up with a Derbyshire brewery and retailer Tesco on the first of a series of “all-British grown” IPA-style beers aimed at halting the charge of imported ingredients from America.
Newland-based hop factor and merchant Charles Faram has been on a 10-year mission to modernise the flavour of British hops through natural cross-breeding programmes, making some varieties “fruitier” to compete with US-grown competitors used in East and West Coast IPAs.
Traditional hop-growing areas including Kent, Herefordshire and Worcestershire have faced increasing competition in recent years from New World hops brought in from the US, Australia and New Zealand, as younger drinkers demanded bolder new tastes.
Paul Corbett, managing director of grower-owned merchant Charles Faram, which has been operating for more than 150 years, said: “We have to move with the times in terms of current beer tastes but this shouldn’t be at the expense of the great and historic British hop industry.
“British hops used in the UK travel fewer miles from farm to brewery so have a lower carbon footprint than most imported hops.
“By choosing British hops we support the local economy; everyone from the farmer to those who work on the farms, to those who service the tractors and the picking machines.”
Charles Faram is supplying four hop varieties, Jester, Harlequin, Mystic and Olicana, to the Buxton Brewery to flavour the 6.8% ABV Brithop, billed as a modern all British-grown hop IPA.
Figures show the amount of hops imported from the US grew from around 1,642 metric tonnes in 2006 to 1,973 metric tonnes last year, while UK hop production slipped back from 1,410 tonnes to 924 over the same period.
The growing thirst for IPA styles of craft beer, which have relied heavily on US hop varieties, is said to be responsible for part of the decline.
As well as direct-from-brewery sales, Brithop is hitting the shelves at 800 Tesco stories as the first in a series of beer launches the retailer hopes will help to “re-popularise” British hops.
Geoff Quinn, managing director at Buxton Brewery said: “As brewers who believe in great tasting, fresh, locally brewed British beers we feel that using locally grown ingredients is a key part of the process.
“We feel that these new modern British hop varieties could be the very beginning of more UK brewers using more locally grown varieties and we would very much like to be pioneers by using them in a range of modern craft IPAs.”
Tesco craft beer buyer Luke O’Connor said the development of new “fruitier-tasting” British hops could herald a fight back by home-grown varieties.
“There’s a bitter irony here because IPAs, made with New World hops, which are helping fuel the craft beer boom, were originally created in Britain with British hops 200 years ago,” he said.
“We hope that the launch of this refreshing and modern tasting new British hopped ale could help kickstart that revival.”