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There are just four ingredients in cask beer – water, malted barley, yeast and hops. It is the latter of these that are probably the least understood.
The hop is a flower that was introduced to Tudor England to help preserve and add bitterness to beer. Before that time brewers would have used hedgerow plants (such as rosemary, bog myrtle or heather) to help balance the flavour of their beer against the sweetness of the malted grains (such as barley, wheat or oats). However, hops soon came to the fore as their bitterness was complemented by an impressive antibiotic quality which helped preserve the beers life meaning alewives (the brewers of their day) didn’t have to brew too many times in any given week.
The only major drawback of using hops is they are a seasonal plant, meaning the needed preserving themselves or else they would rot soon after picking and not last year-round, as required by brewers. The solution was simply to dry them to around 5%-10% moisture, this kept the majority of the essential oils required by brewers, but removed the water which would cause rotting.
It has been commonplace for brewers to continue using fresh, green hops during the harvest period as a rare treat. These hops have esters and aromas that are usually lost. To preserve this tradition, the brewers of Kent (one of only two hop-growing regions in the UK) each brew green hop beers to give drinkers a chance to enjoy this unique drink. It’s hoped the beers will help regenerate an interest in using Kentish hops, crops of which have steadily declined over recent decades.
Our beer is Tallyman’s Special, a zesty, golden beer at 4.5% abv, with a balanced, fruity malted sweetness. You can try it in Shepherd Neame pubs and freehouses from 27th September to 13th October.
(Note: it’s always best to call ahead and check with your licensee, if you’re making the journey specially.)