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Beer Festival Visit - UK

Canterbury, Kent:
Fourth Kent Green Hop Beer Festival at the
Canterbury Food and Drink Festival 2015

Friday 25th and Saturday 26th September 2015

Green Hop 1Bob Thompson

On an unseasonably pleasant weekend at the end of September hundreds, possible thousands, flocked to the Dane John Gardens to visit the three-day Canterbury Food and Drink Festival. Yet what really interested the beer drinkers amongst them was the Festival within the Festival. This is the Kent Green Hop Beer Festival and it kicks off the Kent Green Hop Fortnight, which is a celebration that involves events throughout the county.

Green Hop 2So, what is a Green Hop beer? This where the brewer uses fresh un-kilned hops straight off the bine. Of course, this can only be done in September and October, as these are the months that the harvest is gathered. Hops are not suitable for brewing purposes for very long after they have been cut although will stay intact for months if used for decorative purposes. Hence, the reason why they are dried in an oast house is that they can be available to brewers the whole year round.

Those breweries that have their beers on sale at this festival are required to add the green hops into the brew within twelve hours of them being cut from the bine. This caused problems this year because, having to produce a beer that’s available on a specific date means that the hops have to be harvested within a small window of time prior to this. The weather was pretty awful and a lot of the hops were just not ready.

Green Hop 3This situation meant that there were a large number of alterations. Some to the beers’ recipes as substitute hops had to be used, often the abv was changed. Some beers arrived that were not on the original list and others just didn’t turn up at all! This must have made it awkward for the organisers. However I will attempt to tell you what was actually there and provide some personal tasting notes.

Green Hop 4At this juncture I have to admit that there is one important point I am not totally sure about. I visited the first two festivals, only missing the third. What is in question is the amount of normal (kilned) hops that are allowed to be put in the beer.

At previous festivals 95% of all of the beers had that distinctive smooth green hop taste and aroma. There were much fewer this year that possessed that flavour and smell, so I think there were less green hops used overall.

Now I must admit this is a bit of a list but I am talking about unique beers here and these need to be recorded.

They are listed in the order I tasted them which was simply left to right along the top row and then repeating the exercise along the lower shelf the following day. It is perfectly permissible to skip this section if you wish to, there is some more information on the festival after the list.

PIG & PORTER (Tunbridge Wells) STRANGELY BROWN (4.4%). Described as a green hopped Porter, I think Sean has produced an excellent beer, but I think it would have been better described as a Brown Ale. Fuggles hops.

BEXLEY (Bexley, London) GUSHMERE FUGGLES PALE ALE (4.0%). Obviously additionally hopped with Fuggles, it didn’t have much of green hop taste and possessed a sweetish after-taste.

FOUR CANDLES (Broadstairs) GREEN HOPPED SESSION PALE ALE (abv not known). The label did not match with either beer that was on the beer menu. This was confirmed by taste, nevertheless, it was dry and bitter, good.

ISLA VALE (Margate) GOLDEN DELICIOUS (3.8%). A new brewer, not mentioned on the Festival’s original list. Quite sweet in taste, no discernible green hop taste, just about OK.

WESTERHAM (Crockham Hill) SCOTNEY GREEN HOP HARVEST ALE (4.0%). Like most of their beers it was not too hoppy. It had a slight green hop taste and was quite pleasant. Made with Goldings from Scotney Castle.

WHITSTABLE BREWERY (Grafty Green) GRAFTY GREEN HOP (4.8%). A pale ale with Challenger hops. Even though I know the brewer, I still think this was the best beer of the festival and my fellow drinkers agreed.

KENT BREWERY (Birling) GREEN GIANT (6.0%). The smooth taste of this IPA belied its strength. It had a lovely bitterness derived from East Kent Goldings hops. Paul has produced a bit of cracker here.

HOP FUZZ (West Hythe) GREEN ZINGER (3.7%). I thought this was smooth with a good background bitterness but not over the top in any way. It uses Bramling Cross hops.

NELSON BREWERY (Chatham) CONQUEROR (4.0%). This is a usual seasonal ale that has been brewed with addition of green hops. It was not particularly bitter but nevertheless acceptable.

ROCKIN ROBIN (Boughton Monchelsea) HOP ROCK IT (4.0%). Dark, malty and smooth yet no great bitterness. Robin has made a well-crafted beer but no green hop taste, it was OK.

RIPPLE STEAM (Sutton-by-Dover) FARMHOUSE PALE ALE (4.2%). This was quite pleasant, being smooth with medium bitterness. It is hopped with Admiral.

MUSKET BREWERY (Linton) FLASH IN THE PAN (4.0%). I thought this was a soft-tasting golden ale with a medium bitter finish that was enjoyed. It is hopped with Goldings and Fuggles.

GOACHER’S (Maidstone) GREEN HOP PALE ALE (3.9%). This was a light in body but with a good and full bitterness that lasted to the end. East Kent Golding hops provide the bitterness here.

OLD DAIRY (Tenterden) GREEN HOP ALE (4.0%). Another very smooth green hop taste. This pale ale is hopped with Challenger.

TONBRIDGE BREWERY (East Peckham) CAPEL PALE (4.5%). A good hop taste, it was also fruity but not with the citrus flavour that it was described to have. It was hopped with Pilgrim and was very nice.

Well that was the end of my tastings for Friday and I had completed the sampling of the top row of the stillage. I was back the next day, this time with wife Linda, and began the process again, this time on the second shelf of beers. So, here were my thoughts on the remainder of the beers, which I did indeed finish, thus precluding the need to return on the Sunday.

GOODY’S (Herne) GOOD SHEPHERD (4.5%). It didn’t help that this beer was flat. I found it very malty and not bitter at all. I wonder why it was at a celebration of hops. This beer was not on the original list.

GOODY’S (Herne) GOOD LIFE (3.9%). This was another beer that wasn’t on the first list. It was very malty with slight back bitterness and finish. However, it had a rather cloying yeast taste, as did the former beer.

GOODY’S (Herne) GOOD HARVEST (3.8%). This was the best(?) of the Goody’s beers but still possessed that thick yeasty flavour. It was malty yet with no green hop taste, only just drinkable. It was on the original list.

CANTERBURY ALES (Chartham) GREEN & GOLD (4.8%). No discernible green hop taste but nevertheless a really good beer; very, very dry. In fact, an excellent beer.

CANTERBURY ALES (Chartham) GREEN & BLACK (3.9%). I thought it was a bit thin as a Porter yet it was smooth and bitter in all the correct ways. East Kent Goldings are the hop.

CANTERBURY ALES (Chartham) GREEN & PALE (3.8%). Obviously a Pale Ale, it was hopped with early Bird Goldings. I thought it was dry, hoppy and had a good balance. A very good beer.

RAMSGATE BREWERY (Ramsgate) GADD’S GREEN HOP ALE (4.8%). A regular beer off Eddie Gadd’s annual calendar, it was very good, smooth with a genuine green hop flavour and medium bitterness at the end.

CANTERBURY BREWERS (Canterbury) SIMPLY SAISON (4.5%). It had the true taste of Belgian Saison beer and was made with EKG hops. It was dry yet also sour. I would guess a Belgian yeast was used. Some like this style.

CANTERBURY BREWERS (Canterbury) GREEN CHAPEL ALE (4.6%). This was brewed with Canterbury Christ Church University. A priest blessed the beer at the brewery. Made with EKG, it was very dry and was well liked.

CANTERBURY BREWERS (Canterbury) HARVEST NIGHT (5.6%). Jon and Tom have made a Black IPA and had a solid bitterness that defines the style. I couldn’t get much of a green hop taste, though. I thought it was good.

CANTERBURY BREWERS (Canterbury) EAST KENT RED RYE (4.4%). Another from this brewer made with East Kent Goldings. It had a dry bitter taste and finish but I couldn’t taste the Rye. A very good beer, nevertheless.

CAVEMAN BREWERY (Swanscombe) HUNTER GATHERER (3.5%). This was acceptable but tasted like one of their normal beers with no discernible green hop taste.

MAD CAT (Faversham) OUTRAGEOUS OAT PALE ALE (4.0%). Peter has made a beer with Challenger hops along with Vienna malt and oatmeal. Green East Kent Goldings were added. Quite dry and it was well liked.

MAD CAT (Faversham) GREEN HOP RYE PALE ALE (4.0%). It was made with Pilsner and Rye malt plus East Kent Goldings with the same hops added in their green form. I thought it well balanced with medium bitterness.

LARKIN’S (Chiddingstone) GREEN HOPPED BEST BITTER (4.0%). This was a light beer with just a hint of green hops. It was quite innocuous, but very pleasant nevertheless. A antidote to some of the fuller flavours

SHEPHERD NEAME (Faversham) GREEN HOP ALE (4.2%). This beer has a good green hop flavour in the background, I hope to try it again in a pub soon.

As mentioned previously this festival was part of the Canterbury Food & Drink Festival which has been going a lot longer than the Green Hop Festival. The Green Hop beer tent was located at the Castle Keep end of Dane John Gardens, named after the mound that has a small obelisk on top. We watched brave souls climbing straight up the hill over the weekend. I don’t know why they didn’t just use the path.

Green Hop 5I took a couple of walks around the site and looked at the other drinking opportunities. I’m pleased to say that a number of Kentish Cider producers had stalls, thus filling a gap for those who like the fermented juice of the apple or pear.

Two of the breweries represented at the Green Hop tent also had stands, no doubt selling their usual beers. These were Canterbury Brewers and Ramsgate Brewery (Gadd’s).

One of the cider makers represented at the festival was Core Fruits (Pennypot Farm, Mysole), mainly makers of a huge range of different varieties of apple and pear juice but also Pennypot Cider. There was also the Kent Cider Company who were selling a large range of their products, photo above.

Green Hop 6Dudda’s Tun Cider from Doddington also had a stall with a range of their ciders, both bottled and on draught.

Next to the Green Hop beer tent there was a stall from Kingswood Cider (Kingston, Kent) with maker Kevin manning it. There might have been more, so please forgive me if I missed any, the festival was extremely busy especially on Saturday.

One thing that struck me was the aromas emanating from the various stands. There was food from around the world represented here and it all looked absolutely delicious.

Even the Green Hop stall had some food offerings from the Foundry Brew-pub in the city. There was BBQ Brisket, BBQ Ribs and a prime beef burger. I guess it is the same as what is offered in the Foundry. I have heard that the burgers there are top of the range.

Green Hop 7I met a lot of people during the two days that I visited. As usual there were a lot of brewers attending including Sean from Pig & Porter, Martin from Canterbury Ales, Tom and Jon from Canterbury Brewers, Peter from Mad Cat and Martin from Turnstone. I’m sure there were more.

I was pleased to sit at various times on the benches outside of the tent and chat with Alec and Heather James, John and Janice Mills, Allan (Nobby) Hayes, who twice made the 130 mile round trip from Richmond. Then there was Charles Elliot, John Williams, Gill and Gerry Keay, Chris Excell, Keith Johnson, Kevin (known from the Butcher’s Arms), along with Geoff and Gill Negus.

Also Paul Irving, Andrew Kitney, Peter Burstow, Mike and Mary Galliers, Alex, Sam and Lily Earl. There were others, so please forgive me if I’ve missed you out.

This is a fantastic event that showcases a large number of unique beers. It shouldn’t be missed if at all possible. So far it has always been held on the last weekend of September, so please look out for it next year and in the future.