I was late for the meeting so Cathy wrote this report.
Chris Stewart gave a most informative and entertaining talk on the hop at our November meeting. Firstly, Chris informed
us that Humulus Lupulus or hop means wolf of the wood. Apparently the plant can grow as much as 6” per day and its life span is approx 20 years. There are 27 commercially grown British aromatic hops in the UK. The earliest reference
to hops in Europe was in 822AD, where they were found in Picardy. The first reference to brewing was around 10,000 years ago. Before hops were used beer was brewed with a mixture called gruit. Traditionally women were the brewers as they gave ale to
their babies in place of the contaminated water. Hops gradually replaced gruit, mainly due to their better keeping properties. The 16th century saw the first hopped beer imported from Holland, as the hops enabled it to be shipped into Winchelsea
in good condition. Chris explained that the term hop “garden” was probably used as a tax dodge. The first record of a hop garden was in 1520 at Westbere, Canterbury, however Little Chart, Ashford also make the same claim. A brief
description of the brewing process and hop growing was then given. Amazingly many hop stringers worked well into old age navigating themselves along the rows on 12’ stilts. The ladies did the twiddling – that is tying the strings.
Diseases became prevalent during the 19th century and interestingly in 1848 the Victorians bred ladybirds to kill the hop flies. A vivid account of hop picking was then given. Approximately 80,000 hop pickers (mainly Londoners) came to Kent each
year, originally on foot or cadging a lift on carts, until the overnight hop train specials were introduced. Many of these people lived in extreme poverty and the prospect of earning a little extra money during the hop picking season was advantageous.
Many of the local people found the hop pickers to be a rowdy and immoral lot. Some pubs served beer in sawn off bottle bottoms to the hop pickers, for fear of broken beer glasses in fights. Hoppers marriages were common in the 19th century, where
men already married could marry a girl for a few weeks during the hop picking season. Once the hop pickers were paid at the end of the season they often bought a new set of clothes and changed straight into them, dumping their old rags in the gutter.
Sadly many hop pickers were hit by cholera outbreaks in the mid 19th century. There is a cross in the memory of 43 hop pickers who died of cholera at East Farleigh in 1849. Hop picking continued into the 1960’s in the UK, but it has now been replaced
by automated machinery. Towards the end of the talk Chris mentioned food and medicinal uses of hops. We were also recommended to visit the Hop Exchange in Southwark Street, near Borough Market, London. The building is now used as offices
and the glass roof which provided good light for hop inspection has gone, but the building is open to the public and the receptionist will provide a history of the Hop Exchange on request. This was an excellent talk which was of interest to both our
brewers and non-brewers.
That's The Spirit!
Orujo is not to everyone's taste. It is a potent liquor from Spain - called a pomace brandy. Pomace brandies (eg Italian grappa and Adriatic rakia) are distilled from the solid remains left over after pressing the grape.
Once the grapes are crushed, the skins, seeds and stalks are fermented in closed vats and then distilled. These stills, called alambiques or potas are large copper vessels that are heated over an open fire. Distillation usually takes six
hours or more. The orujo that is produced is a colourless liquor but orujo envejecido or "aged orujo" is amber in colour. This aging is the result of the liquor being left in oak barrels for at least two years. In a town called Potes, there
is held, each November, the "Fiesta del Orujo" where locals distil the spirit in public and judges award a prize for the best tasting batch. Cathy and I have been to Potes. There, I bought a bottle of sublime orujo - which came in a 70cl bottle. Cathy hated
it! Thinking I would get more of this majestic liquor, I bought another bottle. Well, not the same stuff: it was called "orujo" but it came in a litre bottle and was half the price... Argggh! It tasted like paint stripper! Just goes to show: yer pays yer money
and yer takes yer choice! Like I said - not to everyone's taste! The thing about orujo is this: it is produced in small batches and is possibly the most varied and unpredictable liquor out there. The best advice is to pay as much as you can for a bottle -
that way, you can be fairly certain you're getting good stuff!
And A Little Something To Accompany It
When I wrote about kirsch last month, I mentioned cheese fondue. This was a staple of Swiss households many years ago. Originally, it was a means of using up old cheese by melting it in white wine, flavouring it with kirsch
and eating the mixture by skewering bits of bread on a large fork and dipping this into the mixture. Fondue sets were all the rage in the 70s - and, being slaves to convention, Cathy and I bought one - which we still possess to this day! I always wondered
if orujo could substitute for kirsch. I was right! It's a perfect match! 1 clove garlic, ¾ pt dry white wine, 1 tsp lemon juice, 10oz grated emmenthal cheese, 10oz grated gruyère cheese, 1 tbsp cornflour, 3 tbsps orujo (or kirsch), white pepper,
grated nutmeg and paprika (to taste). French bread, for serving. Rub the inside of the fondue pot with the garlic (you can use a small saucepan if you like). Heat the wine and lemon juice carefully. Add the cheese and stir continuously in a figure-of-eight
motion. When the mixture is bubbling, add the orujo and cornflour blended together. Cook 2 or 3 minutes and season to taste. Serve with French bread cut into 1" cubes. Note: with a traditional fondue pot, the mixture is kept warm, on the table, with a small
methylated spirit burner. Well - the fashion died a long time ago. But every now and again we still resurrect the old fondue pot. Happy days!
Next Month's Meeting (December)
This will be the Christmas party. Please can you bring some refreshments for the communal table? Food and drink will be most welcome. Our catering group will organise it beautifully - as they always do! The committee have
decided, once again, that the evening will be free! So please come along. Les Bates will, once again, test us with one of his fearsome quizzes!
Next Month's Competitions (December)
As it is the Christmas party night, there will be no competition. However, in January there will be the usual quarterly dry red wine competition. This brings me on to this meeting...
Members' Favourite Tipple
No apologies for plugging this now as we need volunteers! In January, we are continuing with our experiment of having members talk about their favourite Christmas tipple. It doesn't have to be a full-blown presentation:
the format can be as relaxed as you like - however, last year it was over-weighted with committee members! We only got one volunteer from the rest of the membership. Please can we do something about that this time round? The club will reimburse any expenditure
you make. Come on - it's a jolly evening and we'd all be interested in your tipple!
Dry: 1st Tom Rix, 2nd Cathy Rishman, 3rd Bob Dye
Medium: 1st Cathy Rishman, 2nd Tom Rix, 3rd
Sweet: 1st Tom Rix, 2nd Bob Dye, 3rd Cathy Rishman
Yeast is wonderful stuff: it produces a plethora of flavour compounds in our alcoholic drinks. Compounds such as phenylethyl ethanoate (an ester with a fruity/honey-like odour) and nerolidol (which imparts a woody
scent). The only problem for vintners is that different strains of yeast produce fluctuating amounts of these chemicals. It's the genes you see... Now, scientists have experimented with genetic modification as a means of ensuring a better product (Sunday Times
12 November 2017). Using Crispr genome-editing techniques, they cut out certain genes from the DNA and replace them with ones guaranteed to produce more of these wonderful compounds. The Belgian team, led by Maria Foulquié-Moreno of Leuven University
claims a 70% increase in compounds associated with banana and butter-like flavours. All that's needed now is a sensible EU response to the so-called GM monster!
To Enjoy Champagne...
You need perfect hearing! I always wondered why I preferred Perry - but then I'm deaf - and getting deafer... A report in the "Telegraph" (23 November 2017) shows that human beings prefer a distinctive frequency of pop
(the sound the cork makes on being released from the bottle). This sound should have a pitch of between 8,000Hz and 12,000Hz (arggh! Just the frequencies I'm missing!). This range, known as the "brilliance" pitch is most appealing to humans and, to achieve
it, the bottles must be chilled to 44oF (6.7oC) - that is slightly colder than a fridge.
The Trouble With Goats
Oh how I love the Ship Inn at Conyer. The food is really excellent. But what I love most about it is the endless amusement it affords by its aversion to the simple apostrophe. In the October 2014 newsletter I reported
that they were selling baps with "warm goats" as the principle ingredient ("warm goats cheese and honey"). Now, they've done it again! They are selling goats curd with candid beetroot. I can just imagine the conversation between the beetroot and the head chef:
"now, chef, I can tell you quite candidly that, whilst we will submit reluctantly to your knife, we will never, with all possible candour, yield to the humiliation of being turned into curd with, or without, the addition of a goat!"