Teme Valley Brewery, Hop Nouvelle
Living in one of the few hop growing areas in the UK it seemed only right that we would Teme up (pun intended) with Chris Gooch, the head brewer at Teme Valley Brewery when it was that precise time of year to make green hopped beer.
“So much of what we do in the name in of seasonality in brewing is artificial” Chris told us. "Green hopped beer is perhaps the only true seasonal beer in the UK".
Whilst most summer or winter ales can be made at any time of the year, green hop beer can only be made within hours of the hops being picked. Given the vagaries of the British summer and the certain flexibility required, it also means that you have to have your brewery pretty damn close to a field of hops.
So it was on a damp September day that we found ourselves stood in the bijou Teme Valley Brewery in Knightwick, Worcestershire. Practically surrounded by hop fields and right next door to a pub there were worse places to be on a Monday morning.
Listening to Chris talk about brewing and specifically about using green hops to make beer was one of those occasions when you realise that you’re with someone who really has a passion for what they do. “This is the only time of year when you don’t know exactly what the beer will taste like.” It is also the one occasion in the brewing calendar when the whole brewing chain is brought together on one day to make beer.
This was evident as we helped collect the hops that would otherwise be drying in the kilns within hours.
If only we could bottle this. Oh wait, we did! This beer was brewed using Early Choice hops grown less than a mile from the brewery.
The attachment of the brewery and indeed the pub to the farming community around it is no accident. Founded in 1997 by the Clift family, Annie and Wiz Clift ran The Talbot at Knightwick while their brother Philip ran the family farm at Lulsley Court nearby. The Clifts had been growing hops since the 19th century and it makes a certain sort of sense to brew beer from their own hops to sell in their own pub.
Unapologetically traditional, the beers made by Teme Valley are the kind that the locals want to drink. The locals clearly have good taste and Teme Valley must be doing something right because you’ll find their range outside of the Woo in places like Booths. Good beer has a habit of making itself known.
The Hop Nouvelle is a great example of this style of beer. Light in colour, the malts are not allowed to get in the way of the aroma and taste that is particular to a green hop ale. The oily residue that isn't lost in a kiln coats the tongue leaving an earthy, grassy taste that holds its own until the bitter end. It's fresh and unique in a way that only green hop beer can be.
Whilst it’s practically midwinter out there and we’re approaching the shortest day we thought this would be a good time to taste something that our glorious summer provided.