Malt & Hops is the original, and many would say, still the best, green hops beer brewed on an annual basis. This August, as for every August over the last 20 years, the team are preparing for the hops to be picked, and transported to the brewery where they will be brewed the very same day. However this year, the brew is likely to be a week later than usual.
“The cold and wet summer has delayed the flowering of the hops by a week,” explains Wadworth Head Brewer Brian Yorston. “We are now on standby for the week commencing September 3rd, and the beer should be in the pubs by the 17th September.”It was Brian’s predecessor Trevor Holmes who first had the idea of brewing a beer using fresh green hops picked that day. Usually, hops are dried before being added to brew, but legend has it that Trevor was walking through a field of hops and was inspired by the fresh aromas of the growing plants and intrigued to see if it would be possible to brew a beer with them in their green state.Many brewers have copied Trevor’s original idea, but no others can claim to use exactly the same method, time-tested equipment and years of experience that Wadworth employ to produce the father of all green hops beers.Wadworth still brews Malt & Hops in the traditional old Victorian copper which particularly lends itself to the green hop brewing process. The malt used is a pale ale malt with just a hint of crystal, and the main hop used is Earlybird Goldings. Once brewed the beer is stored in casks for a few days to obtain natural conditioning and can be drunk almost immediately the yeast has settled out.Used as the ‘seasoning’ rather the main ingredient of beer, hops impart tanginess, bitterness and aroma. And the intriguing element of brewing with green hops is that the hops are fresh and untreated and their growing period has been influenced by the weather, so they are an unknown quantity. Correspondingly, the beer they flavour will be different every year, which is unusual – most beers can be brewed to recipe to taste the same every time.“It’s a really exciting moment every year when we taste the first batch of Malt & Hops,” says Brian. “We are always nervous as some years are undoubtedly better than others, but the surprise is half the fun, and we have had some cracking brews over the last 20 years. Perhaps the best was the 2010 vintage which was a beer of exceptional balance and fullness. It’s fingers crossed for this year!”Real ale enthusiasts look forward to the first Malt & Hops in the same way that Beaujolais drinkers anticipate the first wines of the new season. This year the 4.5% ale will be available in the cask from selected Wadworth pubs.“Trevor was one of the great brewers of his time,” comments Brian. “He was not afraid to try new ideas and influenced many innovations in brewing during his many years as Head Brewer at Wadworth. “Brewing with green hops has given beer drinkers something new and exciting to talk about every year since 1992, and will continue to do so into the foreseeable future.”
Left: Wadworth Head Brewer Brian Yorston checking the green hops before picking.