I guess one of the things craft beer aficionados like most about the new wave of brewers is the fact they do not take ‘no’ for an answer easily. Pushing envelopes seems more rule than exception, testing boundaries has become a way of life. Now, that virus is spreading to adjacent ‘industries’.
Growing hop is a hugely labour intensive affair with some very strict climatological and geographical requirements. Huge areas have been used for growing hops in Southern Germany, Czech Republic, Belgium and England for ages. In more recent times, China and the United States have seen big production too. More obscure, yet very particular in aromas, are hops from New Zealand, Japan and Albania. With the increase in small, local craft brewing it is expected that experimenting with locally growing hops will be a trend too, and evidence is given in The Netherlands: Gulpener, Maximus and La Trappe all have their own hop fields. More on Gulpener hop fields later: let’s talk about a well-kept secret, hop is now being grown in Amsterdam!
New Amsterdam Pale Ale
‘They said it couldn’t be done, so we did it.’ This basically sums up the motivation of two gentlemen with a ‘green background’ who’ve started to grow hops two years ago. Obviously they first learned all there is to know about growing this fundamental beer ingredient and yes, they were partly inspired by the growing local beer scene. Once they had secured a small plot of land they set about buying hop seedlings of various races and started growing. Much to their, and everyone’s surprise, the first year already yielded a harvest: normally it takes three years before a hop plant really starts delivering. Teaming up with Fer Kok and Arno Kooij of Amsterdams De Prael brewery they released a cask
conditioned ‘New Amsterdam Pale Ale’, served during the annual Dutch Beer Week at In de Wildeman in 2015. This cask was dry hopped with Opal; the remainder of this Amsterdam Pale Ale was put in kegs and some 300 bottles – it was a rare find indeed.
This year Amsterdam Hophouse (don’t bother Googling it, you won’t find a trace) will again team up with De Prael: it will earn itself its own label and name, and be part of De Prael assortment. Be sure to keep an eye out for it as it promises to be a cracker. The men behind Amsterdam Hophouse currently grow Magnum, Hallertau, Saffir, Opal and (Belgian) Cascade. Magnum being a bitter hop, the other four aroma hops, shows their ultimate goal: to be able and supply locally grown hops for locally brewed beers. Having said that, an all-Amsterdam beer is an illusion since barley isn’t grown in the surroundings and if it is, quantities are not sufficient. Besides, the soil is remarkable suitably for hops and it simply isn’t for barley. Well, so be it. We’re not ‘that’ island after all, and they don’t have hops – ha, that’s a good draw.
Professional hop growing
So, why won’t you find a trace about Amsterdam Hophouse? Well, this is simply because the men behind it have a job, and a family, and for them too a day has but twenty-four hours. They can’t afford disclosing their location lest they be swarmed with enthusiastic visitors: they love to talk about their project but need all the time to maintain and care for their hop field. Besides, building it, what with all the stakes, support beams and growing lines is a massive undertaking. But mind you: I would not be surprised if you will, in a few years, see some acres and acres of hop fields in Amsterdam’s direct vicinity. The gentlemen plan on going all-out for their hop passion as of 1 January 2017! Talks with local authorities and farmers are in final stages to start planting some two to four hectares of hops, and mark my words: Amsterdam will grow to be Holland’s largest hop producing city before 2020. See you in In de Wildeman during 2016 Dutch Beer Week, where we will be able to toast a new Amsterdam hopped brew by De Prael and Amsterdam Hophouse!