Barth-Haas UK celebrates new varieties
Albion on the way, English Cascade, Toyomidori here now
There's a lot going on at the moment at Barth-Haas UK - notably a name change, microbrewing of beers, the launch of Underdog, its creative competition for craft brewers, but above all new hop varieties are coming to market both now and in the near future.
Let's start with Albion, a newly named variety. The variety emerged victorious from a blind tasting by a panel of microbrewers this past spring. Of the two dozen potentially commercial varieties under consideration for planting this season and further development commercially, this was the clear-cut winner. Its name was subsequently chosen in a social media vote.
John Willetts, sales and marketing director for Barth-Haas UK and craft brewing division Simply Hops, notes that this year's planting of Albion has turned out to be "very strong, healthy, and bushy despite the drought conditions, which if the current weather happens to continue will be a big benefit."
That said it'll be three years before a large crop becomes available, perhaps up to five years all told.
But there are more immediate delights for brewers that are being harvested now. Perhaps the most interesting is Toyomidori, which was part of the blind tasting in April and came second. It has an unusual flavour note.
"We tried it dry hopped and it was beautiful," says Willetts. "We were getting lovely pineapple notes. It's very unusual that's why we are excited."
There's also a harvest of Cascade, a transplanted variety from America. Willetts notes that while the core Cascade flavour is to be expected, the English gown hop’s characteristics will differ in the same sense American Cascade does from German grown Cascade.
"It will have a different flavour profile. Although the core is the same, the ancillary notes are different," says Willetts. "It will be exciting to see what UK Cascade gives us in the beer."
Simply Hops will be hosting a further blind tasting of hop varieties next spring – with a twist. Brewers will have chance to sample experimental hops developed in other parts of the Barth-Haas’ world, particularly from Australia and the US.
Brewers looking to take part in this blind tasting session come spring 2016 are welcome to contact Willetts by email to express their interest.
Willetts, who notes the “huge impact” Australian hop variety Enigma has had in the UK, says that the tasting results will influence which varies are imported to the UK and made available to brewers here.
For the observant during this year’s Great British Beer Festival, Barth-Haas was promoting an as yet unmade hop variety brought in from the US, known simply as ‘Experimental 431’. A collaborative beer brewed by Cornwall’s Harbour Brewing, a black IPA called Ex431 Black, was available to sample.
Willetts was tremendously enthused about Experimental 431 – “It has lots and lots of stone fruits. It’s not the classic citrus note; it’s just fruit, fruit, fruit.”
Welcome the Underdog
Hop varieties fall in and out of fashion with some much more in demand than others. Willetts checks off what he describes as the ‘big seven’ – Amarillo, Cascade, Centennial, Citra, Galaxy, Mosaic and Simcoe – which are all massively sought after.
But there varieties that are both capable of producing get aromas and flavours yet are currently overlooked by the craft industry. To that end welcome Simply Hops first, and possibly annual, Underdog competition.
This year craft brewers not only in the UK but across mainland Europe and Africa are invited to brew a recognisable IPA style beer with at least 20% of its hop use comprised of Target.
Target is still in demand by certain regional/family English brewers and it offers notable orange/citrus characteristics, yet there are surpluses amounts available of the variety. It also, notes Willetts, offers the unique bonus of being able to eradicate Verticillium Wilt in the ground.
Brewers can use up to 100% Target in their IPA or as little as 20% in combination with other varieties – save the ‘big seven’ listed above.
The prize is £2,000 in hops, to be supplied by Simply Hops. But the real prize may be the exposure the beer and winning brewer will receive during 2016, with Simply Hops planning to serve it at various global industry events. This starts with the Craft Brewers Conference in the US, followed by Birra Sana in Spain and industry trade show Brau Beviale in Germany.
Brewers can enter Underdog with bottled products but will need to be able to supply small amounts of keg or cask products for the 2016 shows. Simply Hops will take care of the shipping costs.
The deadline for entries is 30th November – further details can be found here.
The name change
As part of simplifying and rebranding their UK corporate structure, the Botanix name is to disappear, in favour of Barth-Haas UK. (The increasingly popular Simply Hops craft brewing brand remains, under the Barth-Haas UK structure.)
Botanix, explained Willets, was a name chosen when the company was involved in more than just hop cultivation, with other botanicals such as lavender on offer. Now completely hop focused, the brand had become something of an anachronism within the Barth-Haas structure.
Barth-Haas UK is also making more use of its microbrewery at its Paddock Wood, Kent headquarters with three brewers on staff.
“So instead of just smelling hops you will get to taste it,” said Willets. “We will try to give brewers the whole 360 degree experience of rub, smell, see and taste so they will know how the hop will perform in their brew.”