Brewers, farmers and hop growers gathered to reflect on a challenging year of weather at Shepherd Neame’s annual Hop Blessing service in Faversham, Kent, on October 5.
Head brewer Richard Frost, who joined the company in January and was celebrating his first Kentish hop harvest, said: “It has been a difficult year for growers with an exceptionally cold spring and a damp early summer affecting growth. It has been fascinating to see how they have used their skill and experience to overcome these problems and bring in the crop.”
The event began with an inspection of hop samples at the Old Brewery Store in the Faversham brewery, followed by the Goldings Lecture, in which the managing director of hop merchant Steiner Hops, Trevor Roberts, gave a talk entitled “The current hop market – and reasons to be cheerful”.
The 90 guests adjourned to St Mary’s Church, Selling, where Chris Maclean conducted the Blessing of the Local Hop Harvest, with a performance by the University of Kent Vocal Consort and readings by chief executive Jonathan Neame, production and distribution director Tom Falcon and local farmer and chairman of the National Hop Association Tony Redsell OBE.
Richard Frost, said: “It is inspiring to be able to brew beer so near the hop fields – in the past I would only get out to see the growers at hop buying time. This year I have seen the shoots come through, and the stringing and the maturing of the plants as I have travelled around the county visiting hop gardens and talking to farmers.
“Hops are an intrinsic part of Kent’s heritage and 95% of the hops used in Shepherd Neame’s traditional cask ales are grown in Kent.”
Speaking after the lecture, Trevor Roberts said: “Richard asked if I could talk about the current world hop market, which for English growers is not particularly encouraging on first examination, so I thought that I would end with reasons why the English growers should be cheerful, mentioning some positive aspects of the market relevant to them.”
PICTURES SHOW: The University of Kent Vocal Consort performing at the Hop Blessing Service; Trevor Roberts (left) with Shepherd Neame chief executive Jonathan Neame.
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