What are the old varieties of hops?

What are the old varieties of hops?

The very first mention of the use of hops in cervoise by Adhalard de Corbie in 822 AP. J-C. is considered the first chapter in the great history of beer.

If the beer of our time no longer has much to do with the hoppy cervoise of the 9th century, it is thanks to the successive innovations brought by scientists, large industrialists and more recently, by the sometimes limitless creativity of artisan brewers. and amateurs around the world: beet beer, juniper berries, Oyster stout, Double Imperial Dry Hopped West Coast Pale Ale (DIDHWCPA)…

But if modern hop varieties, with marked aromas on fruit and resin, are largely developed and produced by American hop growers, some varieties deserve attention, both for their aromas reputed to be more spicy and herbaceous than for their history borrows from more or less well-founded legends: old varieties of hops.

Whether they are French, Belgian, English, German, they have in common a relative abandonment of brewers and hop growers since the 1970s: mediocre yields, too subtle aromas, too low HSI (Hop Index Storage: hop conservation index) , susceptibility to diseases and insects.

At Hopstock, we began our investigation a few months ago to find these varieties, verify their origin, quarantine them to verify their proper adaptation, and multiply them to distribute them to amateur and professional hop growers in France and Europe, in here are a few:

Groen Bell

is a Belgian variety originating from the region of Aalst, between Brussels and Ghent, there are mentions of this variety in the 19th century, cultivated only in Belgium, it was quite widespread throughout the country, after the World War II, it was largely replaced by Czech or German varieties, Saaz or Hallertau. It is no longer grown on a commercial scale and is kept in a few hop fields as a precaution in Belgium. Its reputedly high humulene level gives it aromatic vegetal notes.
Harvest Mid to Late Season
Yields / acres 700-900 kg/acres
Growth Low to moderate

Calais Golding

An English variety, it takes its name from the legend that hop plants were taken to England by Flemish merchants in the 15th century. Calais was then a recognized merchant port and a privileged passage for trade with the English (the city has was occupied by the English from the 14th to the 16th century). Hop cultivation quickly spread in England and especially in Kent where many varieties were developed by producers: Fuggle, East Kent Golding, Brewers Gold… Calais Golding is no longer grown on a commercial scale, but remains a popular variety among heirloom enthusiasts.
Harvest Mid season
Yields / acres 1000-1200 kg/acres
Growth moderate

Tardif de Bourgogne

Hops have been cultivated in Burgundy since the reign of Jean Sans Peur, Duke of Burgundy and Flanders who liked to offer hop plants to his hosts and vassals, according to his conquests,

The Tardif de Bourgogne is a variety from the historical production basin in Burgundy located between Langres and Dijon. It was the pride of Burgundy producers, who made it available in an earlier version: Précoce de Bourgogne, or Hâtif de Bourgogne, a variety that cannot be found today.

Its cultivation has been observed on a very modest scale in Alsace and Belgium, but quickly replaced by varieties more resistant to mildew.

The culture of hops in Burgundy died out in the 80s after several decades of lean cow due to fierce international competition, but some passionate and ambitious projects are reviving it, here is a little immersion in former producers 😉

Harvest Late
Yields / acres 700-900 kg/acres
Growth Low

Coigneau

The preferred hop for Belgian lambics, the Coigneau variety, of which we find written traces in the 18th century, was largely forgotten and its production completely abandoned in the 1930s in favor of other varieties deemed more stable. In partnership with a Belgian agronomic institute, the multiplication of plants was relaunched in 2019, with the objective: to distribute Coigneau everywhere! Too many unknowns still remain on its levels of Acids Alphas, Betas, Co-humulone etc., additional analyzes should clarify this during 2020.
Harvest Late
Yields / acres 700-900 kg/acres
Growth Low

Hallertau Mittelfüh

Old variety but not forgotten variety! This German variety is considered one of the 4 “noble” varieties (Spalt, Tettnanger, Saaz, Hallertau Mittelfrüh). Largely replaced from the 1950s by varieties reputed to be more resistant to Verticillium and offering better yields, it remains an essential variety in the world of Lager and Pilsner.
Harvest Hasty
Yields / acres 900-1100 kg/acres
Growth Moderate to strong

Petit Blanc

Another largely forgotten French variety: the Petit Blanc was grown in a small production area around Lucey, near Nancy (Grand-Est), there are very few written traces of the Petit Blanc, found and saved from oblivion in -extremis by a German hop producer a few years ago, ways to reintroduce it in France and Moselle are being studied, stay tuned here!

At Hopstock, we are working on the reintroduction of old varieties, they have an exciting history, and they could serve as a mother plant for the creation of new varieties, “Petit Vert de Lucey”, “Précoce de Bourgogne”, “Tige Verte des Flandres “, “Beuvrines”, “Tardif de Loraine”, “Précoce de Gerbeviller”: if you have bibliographical or horticultural leads to find other old varieties, give us a sign!

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