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Posted: 24 August 2012
Author: Stewart Tricker
As August draws towards a wet bank holiday and the hop festival is just around the corner it must be harvest time.
There are one or two little things that point towards the fact that the farmers are getting ready for harvest, the usually quiet back lanes now have long queues of traffic as the tractors are out and about, there is the fear that there may be a combine harvester just around the next bend and the knowledge that you will be reversing if it is coming your way.
On my way back across France and southern Kent last weekend there was plenty of activity with the huge combines in the fields as the farmers made the most of the exceptionally warm and dry weather. As you may remember the barley farmers were hopeful of dry weather to enable them to get the crops in. It now appears that they have successfully harvested the winter barley but are currently harvesting other crops before the spring barley. These two barley crops relate to when the seed was originally sown, as you can imagine the growing conditions are very different dependent on how early the seed is sown – this year conditions were nearly perfect for the winter crop with ideal growing conditions in March followed by three months of rain so we are all hopeful off a good yield.
The world markets now affect us far more than they used to, America has had a drought and so is potentially going to have a shortage of feed for their cattle which will inflate the price of cereals across the globe.
The other major harvest for us is obviously the hops, this year the available acreage of hops has been down with less Goldings being grown than recently. Hops change drastically during August, at the end of July there were no cones at all, then the bines start to burr ( at this stage they look like little furry buds) and then cone, now the cones are a good size and clearly visible as you drive past the hop gardens.
The hop harvest will have been affected by the spring and summer weather which will have increased the risk of mildews and hence increased spraying whilst the prolonged wet periods actually prevented access to the plants due to water logging. These combined issues may mean that the ideal harvest times will be a week or so later, but I am sure there will be plenty of hops available for the hop festival.
So let us just hope that the farmers succeed in getting all the crops in over the next couple of weeks to safeguard the raw ingredients for the next twelve months of fine beer
Stewart Tricker - Senior Brewer