Green Hop Beer Festival

Green Hop Beer Festival, The Talbot, Knightwick, Worcestershire, England

The three-day Green Hop Beer Festival held yearly in early October at the 14th century inn, The Talbot, Knightwick, Worcestershire, England, provides the cask ale enthusiast a splendid opportunity to sample very fresh beers that are not available anywhere else in the land of real ale. Or the world, come to that.

Green hop beers are brewed using only fresh green hop cones that have just been picked and been brought directly to the brewery for immediate use in the brewkettle. Normally hops are dried in a hop kiln so that around 8 to 10 percent of the moisture content is retained in the hops. Thus, green hop beers require significantly more hops to achieve an equivalent amount of bitterness in a beer. The finished green hop beers deliver a crisp leafy freshness of aroma and taste, as well as a forward grassiness, that combined invade the senses and enliven the palate. It’s cask ale at its freshest and purest.

The Talbot is a pub, a fine dining restaurant with its own herb garden, a superb hostelry with well appointed rooms, as well as its own brewery located in a separate building just behind the imposing white-painted main building, a tree-shaded patio, and, across a dead-end road, a large grassy common, complete with picnic tables, that borders the Teme River on which the Talbot has fishing rights. The Talbot used to have its own hop field but it was sold on to other interests.

The first day of the festival was a bit grey and damp but early arrivals were treated to such nifty beers as Mathon Golding, 4.1 percent abv, brewed by the host brewery, The Teme Valley Brewery, using only pale malt and fresh green golding hops from the local Ankerdine Farm, which produced a sassy ale with a lingering but balanced hop attack that cried out for more. Green Gold, hitting 4.3 percent abv, from Oakleaf, Gosport, Hampshire, which was brewed with green goldings, developed citric hop flavours nicely on the palate.
The second day, however, rolled over into blue skies and warming sun, warm enough to sit outside in shirt sleeves,  and bright enough that beers had to be protected from the steady gaze of the sun to prevent them from going off.  Green Valley, 4.5 percent abv, brewed at the Breconshire Brewery, Brecon, Powys, using green Fuggles hops from the Little Lambswick hop farm presented a delightful hop presence. Green as Gold, 4.6 percent abv, brewed by the  Mayfield Brewery, Bishops Frome, Worcestershire, with green goldings harvested from hop fields near to where the brewery is located, was generous in its herbaceous hop flavours.

The third day was a trifle more variable but still warm enough for patrons to remain outside without discomfort. There was an added bonus of the Teme Valley market setting up under canvas right outside of The Talbot, providing pickled and spiced garlic selections, a variety of crusty breads, organic vegetables, a selection of flavourful Scotch eggs and tasty artisanal cheeses to tempt the hungry. Sonic Sandgap, a 3.6 abv cask ale from the Foxfield Brewery in Broughton in Furness, Cumbria, brewed with hops harvested from a 17th century hedge with hops intertwined in it, proved to box above its weight with a tempting hop profile. After that, the Mathon Golding had rounded into top-notch form and I chased its delightful hop bitterness throughout the day as I sampled from the fine food offerings and chatted with Chris Gouch, head brewer at the Teme Valley Brewery and the man behind the Green Hop Beer Festival.

A green hopped beer, the 4.1 percent abv Hops Nouvelle brewed by the Teme Valley Brewery and featuring First Gold hops, was available in bottle condition form for take-away, and I didn’t hesitate in picking up a few bottles to bring back to Toronto.

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Raspberry Beer Trifle

Amsterdam Framboise

Raspberry Beer Trifle

Serve 6-8. This is a bit of a twist on an old favourite, English sherry trifle, a stunning end to any meal! Serve beer in champagne flutes.

Ingredients Milk sponge cake

2 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup sifted flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk, scalded
1 teaspoon butter, added to scalded milk to melt
8 to 10 ounces  Amsterdam Framboise or Belle-Vue-Framboise
4 ounces dry sherry
Bird’s custard, prepared as per box instructions
1/4 cup whipping cream

Method

Preheat oven to 350 ºF. Beat together eggs, sugar and vanilla until light and airy. Mix together dry ingredients and fold into flour. Add scalded milk and butter. Bake in a 350 ºF oven for about 30 minutes, or until an inserted knife is clean when withdrawn.

Trifle

When sponge cake is cool to the touch, cut into 1-inch strips and place in bowl in a single layer. Cover with a thin coat of raspberry jam. Pour 1 glass of dry sherry and 2 wine glasses of Belle-Vue-Framboise over sponge cake and jam. Let soak into cake for 15 minutes. Prepare a Bird’s custard and pour over cake. Cover bowl with cling film and refrigerate. Just before serving, whip cream and cover trifle with final layer of richness. Serve immediately to great applause.

Serve with your choice of:

Amsterdam Framboise is a 6.5 percent abv fruit beer brewed by the Amsterdam Brewing Company, Toronto, Ontario. This rich ruby, blood red coloured ale is surmounted by a fine pink foam of a fine bubble. Envigoratingly fresh fruity, raspberry nose exhibits the sweetness and succulence of just-picked ripe fruit. On the palate, lightly spritzy, fruity, with a developing dryness from both Perle hops and the raspberries. The finish is of a medium length with a distinct tartness and crispness from the fruit. Amsterdam Framboise is made with 400 kilos of frozen raspberries, which are added in the secondary of every 20 hectolitre batch. The beer is 5.5 percent abv before the addition of the fruit. The beer spends 10 to 14 days in primary and a further 14 days in secondary. The fruity nose of this Framboise leads one to believe this beer would be fairly sweetish but in reality it’s very dry. Amsterdam was once a Toronto, Ontario, brewpub that grew up to become a microbrewery.

Belle-Vue-Framboise is not overly sweet but the big fruit notes come trumpeting alongside a dryness that make this beer such a tempting treat on its own.  Lambic is made from malted barley, unmalted wheat, water and year-old hops, with a spontaneous fermentation. The lambic is matured in oak port barrels for two to three years and then blended to ensure consistency in the end product. Ripened raspberries are then added to a lambic, creating a raspberry lambic. Belle-Vue Framboise is then aged further to enhance and balance flavors. Belle-Vue-Framboise is brewed in Belgium to a strength of 5.2 percent abv.

About

Robert Hughey in his hop garden.

Robert Hughey

I am a writer, photographer, home chef, brewer and inner city hop grower who loves to travel, especially to England.

I favour cask conditioned ales, English pubs, single malts, fine food and dry red wine.

I was a founding member of CASK! I am a  long-time supporter and promoter of microbreweries and a writer for the Great Lakes Brewing News.

Back Hand of God Organic Stout

Back Hand of God Organic Stout from Crannog Ales, Sorrento, BC

An enticing aroma of roasted barley leads to rich and roasty notes on the palate. Hop bitterness eases into the background and holds its own. The Back Hand of God reaches to the back of the throat and clutches directly , with no sign or sense that it is going to release you from its grip. This well balanced stout with juicy malt and roasted dryness, and a bitter finish directs one to have another, and its clearly at your own peril if you do not comply to the wishes of the Back Hand of God.

Taken at the Railway Club, Vancouver, BC

Real Life Moment

Alan was taking his morning fitness run early one sunny, summer day when a drunk lurched out of an alley and knocked him flat.

Alan rose to his feet and, recovered, set off again.

Behind him the drunk yelled: “Just how f**ckin’ long d’ya wanna live anyway?”

(as told by Julian Mulock)

Vancouver Redux

Self Serve Bar Railway Club Vancouver BC

Vancouver, BC

There is temptation at most pubs or bars for a beer drinker and then there is the sort of blatant temptation at the Railway Club in Vancouver, British Columbia, enticing me with a large ‘Self Serve Bar’ sign hanging over the bar.

I didn’t help myself but I just might have given half a chance. But there were always staff hovering within easy intercepting range.

So I let them serve me such hoppy delights as Phillip’s Hop Circle IPA and Fat Tug IPA from the Driftwood Brewery, as well as Back Hand of God Organic Stout from Crannog Ales for a very miserly $5.95 for an Imperial pint. Vancouver was under a bit of a cold spell and the hot and gently spiced carrot soup was just the ticket to warmth, balanced by the steady intake of  IPAs.

The Yaletown Brewpub serves up the house Brick and Beam IPA, a sound and perfectly hoppy partner for the spicy grilled garlic shrimp that are to kill for. Still, I didn’t have to harm anyone to get these delicious shrimp with crisp golden shallots, lemon, salt and pepper and a bit of finely chopped cilantro.

The Alibi Room was jumping Saturday at lunch time and again later in the week when I returned at night. Bear Republic Big Bear Imperial stout at 9 percent abv was surprisingly well balanced for such a big bear of a beer. I didn’t have to wrestle this bearish beer down my throat as it slid down without a fight. Met fellow specialty beer drinkers from Toronto, George, now living in Vancouver and Dave on a self-imposed beer tour. Shared a fine example of the barley wine style from the Longwood Brewpub in Nanaimo, BC, with its 10.5 percent abv and a year of aging. It released  aromatics of malt and raisins and finished with a bitter to sweet taste. Also had Yorkshire Stingo, a 9 percent abv bottle conditioned ale from Sam Smiths of Tadcaster, Yorkshire, that promised a minimum of a year of aging. It too had raisins and tasted of Christmas pudding captured in a bottle. Both ales are fine examples of the style and great beers to share.

Over at Steam Works Brewpub the coffee shop is long gone and in its place is a splashy new bar, adding around 70 seats. The Empress IPA was still in fine fettle and pouring well on my several visits.

St. Augustine’s Craft Brew House & Kitchen on Commercial Drive yields a good selection of craft draught, namely Amnesiac Double IPA from Phillips Brewing and Nitro Oatmeal Stout from Central City Brew Pub of Surrey among its many offerings. Check out its Web site  for its ‘Live Beer Menu’, which not only lists the beers on tap but the remaining percentage of each. However, the isolated brewery tanks looked wanting splashed about near the bar and off over in the drinking areas. The good news is that the company is building a brewery off site called Parallel 49.

Two things you can count on in Vancouver–variable weather and changeable opening times at pubs and bars. The brewpubs, however, tend to stick to a regular schedule.