Members of the London Brewers’ Alliance will be supplying hop shoots to the pubs, bars and restaurants they supply and challenging chefs across the capital to incorporate these tasty little spears into a variety of imaginatively created dishes.
Everyone knows that the hop (Humulus lupulus) is the bittering agent used in virtually all beers produced anywhere. Not everyone knows that they were introduced into Britain by the Romans, and the Romans, weren’t beer drinkers. They ate the shoots of the hop as a vegetable and this tradition was revived in later centuries once the commercial production of hops was commenced in the fifteenth century.
Hops are harvested in September, but in the spring the hop growers have to thin the shoots and train the most promising specimens onto the strings up which they will grow to heights of around sixteen feet. Nowadays these shoots are mechanically thinned, but when this work was done by hand, the shoots were gathered and frequently eaten.
Hop shoots are part of a number of plants that have picked up the pseudonym ‘Poor Man’s Asparagus’. This group includes samphire, salsify, Good King Henry and Alexanders; plants that were once eaten much more widely than they are today. The name suggests how they were traditionally prepared; fried in butter and, with a little salt, served straight from the pan.
On April 27th Members of the London Brewers’ Alliance will visit the Kentish hop farm of Chris Liliwhite to gather hop shoots and then will race back to London to distribute freshly cut shoots to anxiously waiting chefs (see below), eager to give even the most widely travelled foodie a taste sensation they are unlikely to have tried before.
Chris provides a little background to his hop farm. “Lenhall Farm sits between the two villages of Bridge and Bishopsbourne, on the outskirts of Canterbury. I am not sure exactly when hop production started on the site, but the oast was built in 1875 and hops have been grown continuously since then. I became involved in the hop growing there in 2001, when the previous tenant left because of the poor state of the wirework and depressed prices. At present I am growing 10 acres of hop, a mixture of Challenger & East Kent Goldings. My family have been growing hops for five generations so you could say it’s in the blood. 2011 crop produced an excelent hop crop and our Goldings won first prize in the English National Hop Competition. “
The idea behind the Hop Shoot Festival is to remind Londoners of the historic connection between the city and the land. For centuries London was the brewing capital of the world. East Anglia produced and still produces the world’s best malting barley and Kent still produces some of the world’s finest hops. London’s brewers relied on both these regions for the ingredients required in huge quantities to slake the thirsts of generations of drinkers.
A record number of breweries opened in London in 2011 and an incredible total of 18 breweries now operate in the capital. LBA members are supplying a growing number of outlets as increasing numbers of drinkers and operators wake up to the fact that there is currently a renaissance in London brewing. There are now more breweries operating in the London region today than at any time since the 1950s.
The Hop Shoot Festival is a celebration of that renaissance, a recognition that we are living through an exciting period in the long history of brewing in London and a reminder of the continuous nature of the relationship between town and country.
NOTES TO EDITORS
The London Brewers Alliance was founded in 2010 as a loose confederation of brewers operating in and around the capital. It is a non-heirarchical, non-profit organisation dedicated to promoting London’s brewers and raise awareness about brewing in London.
Interest in the festival is growing and already a sizeable number of venues have expressed a keen desire to participate. To date these include:-
The Bull – Highgate
The Euston Flyer – Euston
The Victoria – Bayswater
Duke’s Brew & Que – Hackney
Horseshoe – Hampstead
The Draft House – Battersea
The Draft House – Clapham
The Draft House – London Bridge
Old Red Cow – Smithfield
The Clifton – St Johns Wood
Crown & Anchor – Chiswick
White Swan – Twickenham
The Botanist – Kew
Ben’s Canteen – St John’s Hill.
Your contact for this event only is Peter Haydon of the Florence Brewery email@example.com,
Mobile 07973 465081