Future of UK beer industry: growers test climate-resilient hops - Fruit & Vine

Future of UK beer industry: growers test climate-resilient hops

New varieties of organic hops resilient to climate change are being developed around the UK. The news follows concerns over the future of homegrown beer ingredients. 

New varieties of organic hops resilient to climate change are being developed around the country. The news follows numerous concerns over the future of UK-grown beer ingredients. 

The Innovative Farmers’ Hop Trial aims to improve and secure the availability of locally grown organic hops by bringing together key stakeholders in the organic hops supply chain, including breeders, merchants, growers and brewers.

The crops have been cultivated over the last three years to see if they could be grown organically in warmer temperatures and be more resilient to diseases. 

The study follows the news that the traditional non-organic varieties grown in the UK, like Fuggle and Goldings, are under increasing stress from a number of issues. This includes climate change, disease, insects, and low nitrogen availability.

Hops under pressure

The researchers have been working on identifying varieties and breeding lines suitable for organic production and testing them in field trials in commercial organic hop gardens. They have been assessing hop variety characteristics and qualities for brewing through lab analysis and brewing tests.  

The trial’s goal is also to raise awareness of the challenges of UK hop growing through field lab KE activities, engaging consumers through a parallel marketing campaign involving a collaboration with River Cottage and their Food to Inspire Change partnership. 

Its results will provide useful management strategies to improve organic UK hop production, e.g., companion planting, planting density, and varietal mixtures. Growers will be able to simply compare organic and conventional hop growing systems in terms of soil health, carbon and biodiversity. 

Supplying farmers with high-quality, sustainable crops 

Speaking to the media, Greg Pilley, managing director of Stroud Brewery in Gloucestershire, said that growing more climate change-resistant organic hops in the UK could supply farmers with a high-quality, sustainable crop. 

Growing trials on two farms in East Sussex and Worcestershire have identified five varieties of hops are promising to cope with higher temperatures and increased disease resistance. 

After being harvested, Stroud Brewery used them to create new beers, which were put to a tasting trial in its taproom to assess their suitability for commercial beer-making. 

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