Blackberry Farm

Friends of the Farm

All about Hops

Hops are perennial herbaceous plants that have been used in the production of beer since the 8th century and have as fascinating and storied history as the art of brewing itself. Their resiny oils contain hundreds of flavor compounds that produce unique fruity, floral, spicy and earthy characteristics.

We use a number of distinctive hop varieties here at Blackberry Farm Brewery. Many are of a kind referred to as “Noble.” This term is used to distinguish a certain subset hops from the world’s hundreds of varieties. In general, Noble hops are those that are European Continental cultivars with low alpha acids and balanced essential oils. In particular, these hops are known for their elegant herbal and floral aromas made distinctive by a unique terroir which has derived from centuries old adaptations growing in their home territories. A few varieties worth noting are Czech Saaz, East Kent Golding, and Styrian Golding.

Czech Saaz is widely considered as one of the world’s great hop varieties and has been used in beer making since the Middle Ages. It is highly sought after for its uniquely herbal aroma and is used in traditional Pilsners, Lagers and Beigian styles. Its prized qualities have made Saaz a popular choice in many modern breeding programs.

East Kent Golding is a traditional English variety prized for its earthy and fruity, apricot-like, aroma and was used in many traditional India Pale Ales throughout that styles hay day in the 19th Century. “Golding” varieties can be grown anywhere and often are, yet prized traditional varieties are specifically grown in the eastern regions of the County of Kent in south eastern England. The Golding moniker is derived from the name of its original breeder.

Styrian Golding, grown in the “Savinja” area of Slovenia and Austria is widely used in Belgium for its delicately spicy aroma, and has a peculiar heritage. When the hop growing regions of Savinja were devastated by diseases affecting the German varieties being grown there, the growers went to England looking for new stock. They returned under the impression they had selected a Golding variety when in fact they had a progeny of the “Fuggle” variety, another highly prized English variety and key candidate in many breeding programs.

All this is to shine a light on the question we are frequently asked, "Do you use American hops in your beers?" We do use small amounts of American hops in our Summer Saison, but the lion’s share of our hops come from traditional growing regions in the Old World. They give us the nuanced aromas, flavors, character, and complexity that we strive for in our beers.

Daniel Heisler, Brewmaster