Visiting the Redsell hop farm & the story behind our Hop Harvest '23 Lamanva (Best Bitter)
We were introduced to Antony Rudgard-Redsell earlier this year by our New Zealand farmer Brent McGlashen. Brent said he had an English hop grower staying with him for a bit during the southern hemisphere hop harvest and that he's really passionate about shaking the English hop industry up and dragging it into the 21st century. We can safely say that, having now met Antony in the flesh when visiting his Kentish farm last month, that he was bang on the money!
Antony is under no illusions as to the current state of the industry in the UK and how the acreage has steadily and alarmingly declined year on year for what seems like eternity. Once upon a time, England produced the same quantity of hops as Germany. That's certainly not the case anymore with 2021 statistics showing a total acreage in Germany of 50,957 versus 1,656 in England, and we're certain 2022 and 2023 statistics would make for bleaker reading still. Industry protectionism and a lack of willingness to embrace new farming techniques have utterly stifled what once was a huge industry.
It's a real shame and frankly shouldn't be the case. The hop breeding and cultivation heritage in England is second to none; the majority of the new superstar hops in the world all originated from our humble UK varieties. When we visited Antony's farm, we were blown away by the quality and pungency of heritage varieties such as East Kent Goldings and Fuggle, as well as newer ones such as Admiral and Challenger. Harvest time on any hop farm is an intense period, and it was a privilege to be guided around by him and shown pretty much every acre of his generations-old family Kentish farm. Excitedly rubbing what seemed like hundreds of Wye College experimental crosses reminded us of similar visits to farms in Yakima where they are always keen to show you some crazy new things in the pipeline. The ten acres or so of UK cascade were still about a week off harvest, but it was some of the healthiest we've ever seen, and we've never smelled Goldings so pungent and citrusy or Admiral so akin to marmalade.
Antony has been making some major investments in processing equipment with twin German-built Wolf pickers being the star of the show, but it's the development of his own hop-growing instinct, through spending time with fellow passionate farmers like Brent, that we believe is really starting to bear fruit. A deepening understanding of soil types and nutrients, coupled with knowing exactly when a specific variety in a specific field is ready to harvest, and then getting it all safely in and processed as quickly and as skillfully as possible.
It was an absolute pleasure to visit the farm and come away with our van crammed full of freshly picked East Kent Golding, a name coined by Antony's great-grandfather. The journey back to the brewery was long and extremely aromatic! All 150kg of the fresh cones were utilized in a Hop Harvest '23 edition of our Lamanva Best Bitter, and in our opinion, it's tasting better than it ever has with the EKG character bursting through.
This working relationship, although new and in its infancy, is clearly here for the long term. We're so excited for Verdant to grow alongside Redsell Hops and build several 100% UK ingredient beers around his hops. Keep an eye out for an ESB (Extra Special Bitter) collaboration with Adnams that showcases Admiral, EKG, and Fuggle in the not too distant future. If more hop farmers over here can follow Antony's lead and approach farming with a similar zest and enthusiasm, then we reckon the future looks a little brighter... For sure.