Making the most exquisite beer

Green Hops growing wild on a lane in Tonbridge Kent (UK)

Making beer with green hops

If you are lucky enough to live in an area that has wild hops growing in it - don't let the opportunity pass to collect some and make the most exquisite beer you'll ever have drunk. Actually, the hops pictured are probably not truly wild: they are likely to be the offspring of hops that used to be grown in what was a hop growing district. My guess is that these are Goldings.

Do you remember the craze (now thankfully a thing of the past) for bringing the first bottles of Beaujolais back into the country? The "Nouveau" idea is now best left to the French!

Well, we English people have recently discovered the delights of brewing beer with fresh hops - from bine to bottle!

There is little doubt that the flavoursome hop loses something special in the traditional drying process. Many of the elegant flavour compounds, because of their volatility, are driven off. The purpose of brewing with green hops is that these delicate compounds are retained in the beer - leading to a beautifully fresh and fragrant beer. Of course green hops retain all the water that is normally lost during the drying process. Quite simply, this must be accounted for when weighing out. The dry hop contains only 20% of the water in the green hop. All you need to do is to use five times as much mass as you would use in your normal favourite recipe.

For example, most of my recipes use 4oz of dried hops. When using green hops I just weigh out 20oz - it's that straightforward! However, to maximise the retention of the delicate volatiles, boil the beer with 15oz of green hops for 50 minutes - then put the remaining 5oz in. Continue the boil for just 10 more minutes. It's absolutely magical!

Wild Hop Beer

Pale malt (9lbs)

Water (4.5 gallons UK)

Real Ale Yeast (best to activate this first: stir it into half a pint of tepid water containing 2 teaspoons dissolved sugar)

Green hops (20oz)

Mash the malt in the normal way (I find my electronic Pico mash tun set at 63 degrees Celsius is perfect). The mash should reach starch end-point in 2 or 3 hours. Meanwhile - go and pick your hops!

Strain off the sweet wort in the normal way. Sparge the spent grain with a couple of kettles of boiling water. Add a couple of teaspoons of Irish Moss and then boil the sweet wort with 15oz of green hops for 50 minutes. Add the remaining 5 oz of green hops and boil for another 10 minutes. Run off the bittered wort into a 5 gallon fermenting bin. Cool it as quickly as possible. It's not very environmentally friendly, but I put the vessel in the bath and surround it with cold water.

When cool (about 20 degrees C) take the O.G. with a hydrometer. This one comes out to be 1040.

Now pitch the yeast, ferment out and follow the instructions on the "Beer Step by Step" page. This golden beer is just BEAUTIFUL!

Wild Hop Beer (2)

Whist it is fair to say, the above beer is truly magnificent, it is also fair to say it is more of a lager than a traditional English bitter. The above beer is golden, lightly hopped and of moderate body and strength. What follows is more of a traditional English bitter. This one is darker, fuller in body and strength and is more heavily hopped. It is a truly fine example of a fragrant, full bodied bitter, that is exceedingly thirst quenching and delicious! As usual, follow the instructions on the "Beer Step by Step" page.

Pale malt (10lbs)

Crystal malt (4 oz)

Water (4.5 gallons UK)

Activated Real Ale Yeast

Green hops (30 oz)

Mix all the malts and make the beer as above. However, use 20oz of green hops for the inial boil. Then, after 40 minutes, introduce the remaining 10 oz of green hops. Continue the boil for another 20 minutes. You will NOT be disappointed with this one!

Green Hop Beer Festival

This occurs every year in Canterbury. All the great breweries are now producing green hop beer. It's like a British Beaujolais Nouveau celebration! You really must go - it's a revelation! Here's the website:


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