Maybe it’s me getting mild, but this will be another OHM blog post without me moaning and groaning about something. Don’t worry, I am not getting mild: it’s just that there’s once again some fantastic news to bring!
I sneaked out to a small meadow near Amsterdam this Saturday to see how the hops were growing. Remember my earlier post about ‘Amsterdams Hophuis’, an endeavor proving the impossible, that hops can actually be grown near our capitol, on the moors of North Holland? Five varieties (Magnum, Hallertau, Saffir, Opal and (Belgian) Cascade are being grown and when I arrived, the harvest had begun. Next weekend they hope to finish harvesting: provided it will not rain, they expect to bring a couple of hundred kilograms in. These hops will then be used by Brewery De Prael: they already brewed an experimental batch last year, being Amsterdam Pale Ale, to see how the local hops would perform. According to co-founder and brew master Fer Kok they performed really well, and so expect this year’s harvest to be used one way or another in De Prael beers. What styles is yet to be decided, although a fresh hop beer is a very real candidate.
Not all varieties grow equally well on the moor, and it will take some fine-tuning to decide the final split for subsequent years’ plantation. Particularly since the initiators of Amsterdams Hophuis (who, for now, choose to remain unknown) are looking to upscale their current three-quarters of an hectare to as much as four hectares in the next years, quite an important decision. I guess Opal and Magnum will be a no-brainer: Opal was harvested, and Magnum was begging for it – I tested some. The smell of the Opal was full and rich: pulling the hop flower open, the yellow inside blew out with that typical limey and grassy aroma. Magnum was even more impressive, almost breathtakingly strong and full of lupulin – the oily substance you want to dry quickly to use in beer brewing for either aroma or conservation purposes. Rubbing the hop flowers in your hands to warm the oils up so as to fully appreciate their aromas, they both left the familiar sticky residue on your hands that make them smelling after hop for hours. In
short: it looks like locally grown hops are a reality, and will be a real ingredient to work with for breweries who want to. Expect the people behind Amsterdams Hophuis to reveal more of their plans (and thus themselves) after 1 January 2017.
As for brewery De Prael, the dream of making brewing an as locally as possible undertaking is getting closer to being realized. They got a lot of buzz going with their recent Code Blond – a beer, brewed with rain water collected on Amsterdam roof tops. Who knows, the brewery may be the world’s first to brew all its beer with (purified) rain water and locally grown hops. Can’t get more local than that, now can it? Besides: a small step for a brewer, but a giant leap for mankind!