Green Hop 2020 is coming on 22nd and 23rd October, thanks to Manchester Hop Project and city brewery Beer Nouveau.

I asked Steve Dunkley, founder of Beer Nouveau, about the event in an online interview.

Beer Today: Manchester’s not known as one of the country’s hop-growing areas. How did this idea come about?

Steve Dunkley: Manchester is definitely not known as a hop growing area! About five years ago, I think it was, one of the regulars at the tap asked if I wanted some green hops to brew with, and I thought: “Why not?” Turned out it was his mate that grew them, not for brewing, just for growing (no idea why!). They were Pheonix and the beer turned out great. Really great. Played it safe with a gentle pale ale and the hops worked superbly with it.

When we put it on the bar, people loved it. And I got offered some more green hops for the following year.

BT: Where are the hops grown?

SD: Turned out that several homebrewers in the area also grew their own hops, but the plants were producing more than their kits could handle. They were drying them and freezing them, but had spare. So the following year I took in a load of Prima Donna/First Gold and brewed the same malt base, and again got a great beer out of it that people loved.

I then sat down with a couple of the homebrewers growing hops in their gardens, Alex and Andrew, and we decided to do something similar to what the Moss Cider Project were doing with apples. That people could bring us their surplus hops, and we’d brew with them, and give them an amount of beer back, depending on how many hops they brought in.

Next thing, Google. Did some research online to see if anyone else was doing anything like this, because it’s always best to reach out and ask for help. And it turned out there’s a bit of a network of these sort of set-ups, so we joined up with them, ironed out what we were going to do, and launched the following year. We help people source their rhizomes, look after them, and then we brew beer with them.

Manchester: who knows where you might find hop plants? Photograph: Unsplash/Mangopear Creative

BT: Which hop varieties are being grown?

SD: This is the first year we’re brewing with lots of different sorts. Normally, we’d just brew the Prima Donna [hops] beer on the main kit, but there’s just not enough demand for it in cask this year due to covid. So we’re brewing lots of smaller batches and putting them all on at the same time.

We started off recommending to people to grow Prima Donna because it’s a dwarf variety, and easier to manage, but we soon had people joining up who were already growing other varieties, or had allotment space for the larger ones. We get Prima Donna, Fuggles, Goldings, Herrsbrucker, Challenger, Northern Brewer, Citra, and Cascade; although in varying quantities.

BT: As a brewer, what’s so great about using green hops?

SD: It’s great. Feshly-picked hops bring totally different flavours to a beer than dried ones. And hops grown in Manchester have their own terroir, too. So the beers are definitely unique. Takes a few brews with them to get used to them, but then you can tweak and work the malt bill to fit, and get some great flavours that otherwise just aren’t available.

BT: How many beers will be at the festival, and how will the event operate?

SD: We’re planning on seven or eight, or maybe 10 beers, so it might be seen by some as not really a festival, maybe more of a celebration. We’ll put them all on the bar, ideally all on draught, and just run the tap as normal with the full covid-secure guidelines we follow anyway. We’re lucky that we’ve got a large outdoor drinking area now. If the restrictions get tighter, then we’ll put everything into small-pack and have them available for take-outs.

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