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A short hop for Arkell's vital ingredient
ARKELL’S head brewer Alex Arkell reaffirms the company’s belief in keeping down the beer miles as he inspects lush green fields of hops just 18 miles down the road from Swindon.
Alex went back to source by visiting this year’s harvest at Berkshire Hops, in Kingston Bagpuize.
He said: “We’ve bought our Fuggles and Goldings hops from Tim Blanchard at Berkshire Hops for almost 20 years — it’s the only hop farm in Oxfordshire, and it’s also the closest hop farm to the brewery. Why travel miles when something so good is on your doorstep?”
Tim and his family have been growing hops for almost 50 years, and now his sons, James and Edward, have joined the family business. The Blanchards grow hops across 50 acres of the farm, the rest of the 1,100 acres is mainly arable, with 700 pigs.
“Most hop farms are in Herefordshire and Worcestershire, Kent,” said Tim. “Hop farming began here in the 1920s and our family got involved in the 1930s.”
The hop is, according to Tim, an amazing plant. He believes it has wonderful preservative qualities — one of the reasons brewers put it in beer — and it’s a member of the nettle and cannabis families. It also has separate male and female plants and is full of essential oils.
For Alex, local hops help give Arkell’s beer its distinctive taste and flavour.
“Unlike many of the bigger breweries who buy cheap hops in bulk from abroad, many family breweries such as Arkell’s love the fact that our beer is not only brewed in the traditional way but it’s also using local ingredients.”
This year’s hop harvest is nearly in, thanks to Berkshire Hops’ new hop harvesting equipment — purchased after the farm’s kilns suffered devastating fire damage in 2010 — and Arkell’s will be taking delivery of the new hop crop soon.