Whilst the allotment preparations are coming along, it’s very nearly time to get some plants in the ground. Before I can do this though, I need to work out how I’m going to plant the hops and barley and for this I need some help. I tore myself away from digging and clearing, and took to the road to visit 2 people that know a lot more than me…
First up was a trip to see Ben Adams, technical advisor for hop merchants Charles Faram. As well as supplying the vast majority of UK brewers with some of their hops they also work with farmers and specialists to research new varieties. After a chat about what I need to do next, which varieties I should be growing and what I can do to keep them all alive we had a look around one of the warehouses – aisle after aisle of processed, packaged and ready-to-brew hops stacked 50 feet up to the ceiling. Considering that a handful of hops can add bitterness, flavour and aroma to a brew, the amount stored in just this warehouse really highlighted just how much beer is brewed in the UK alone.
Next, I headed over to Crisp Malting in Norfolk to better understand what to do with the barley – if I don’t get this bit right there’s no barley grains, which means no sugar, no fermentation and no beer. Steve LePoidevin was my barley and malting expert, offering advice on what type I should be planting and, assuming it all goes to plan, what process it will go through before it can be brewed. Similar to Charles Faram, the scale that the guys at Crisp work on is mind-boggling – from traditional floor maltings that haven’t changed in over a century to modern equivalents that produce thousands of tonnes of malted barley to supply both brewers and distillers.
All in all, a really important couple of days. Interviews for the podcast sorted, varieties decided and tips for actually growing it all secured, I’m much better prepared to start growing beer. I’m very grateful to both Ben and Steve for their help now and for the ongoing support and advice I’ll need over the coming months to grow the plants, harvest and then process them.
Next week I’ll be adding the final touches to the shed, further preparing the beds and ordering the all important hops and barley.
Hitting the road in the name of research