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Hop becomes hip in Cardiff as gardeners help produce beer

You could join an inventive group of Cardiff gardeners who have taken a hop, skip and a jump towards producing 1,000 litres of their very own beer.

Gardeners and beer lovers are being encouraged to become crop growers as part of Cardiff Hops, a project supported by Cardiff Transition, which helps people to grow green hop and eventually use the harvest to make Cardiff’s own beer, the Taff Temptress.


Last year, with around 60 growers, Cardiff Hops harvested 10kg of fresh hop, which made a batch of 500 litres of beer.

This year, more than 130 people have already signed up to grow the plant in their gardens or allotments and with an estimated 90 successful growers with plants ready for harvest come the autumn, Cardiff Hops is hoping to make 1,000 litres of the Cardiff brew in 2015.

With a starter kit worth £20, which include seedlings of a variety of dwarf green hop called Prima Donna, participants are ready to start growing their plants.


A pint served in Pipes


The hop is harvested over 24 hours in September and directly taken to Pipes, a microbrewery and bar in Pontcanna, which only has another 24 hour to brew the plants into beer.

The Taff Temptress is then served in Pipes, and all growers are rewarded for their work with discounted bottles of their home-grown beer.

Simon Holt, 32, who initiated the project in Cardiff, said:

“I was quite fortunate that the team in London wanted to see if it would work outside of London. The project was launched from one capital to another.

“I thought it was a great idea, it supports local economy and it’s about getting local people growing the plant according to their own interest and it just worked.

“I think growing a new green hop ale is pretty cool and because there is only 48 hours to get the hop in beer, big commercial enterprises can’t do it so it’s a unique opportunity that no one else can do.”

Mr Holt is meeting with the British Hop Association next week to negotiate the opening of Wales’ first hop farm outside Cardiff. So far, the plants have been imported from Kent.


Preparing the crop

He said: “The plant itself is very beautiful to garden and and it has a lot of character. The idea is that the plant can also be used for crafts, parts of the vines can be used to make baskets, the tips of the plant can be used as asparagus substitute and it can even be used as sleeping pills.”


Hop plants growing

Hop plants don’t need a huge amount of ground space and they can be planted in pots of 45 litres if there is enough space for the roots. The Prima Donna variety of hop is scaled for domestic growing so they can grow to a height of just over 3 feet and their yield is lower and more manageable than other types of hops.


The picked crop


Free from pests, the plant can live for 30 years. Rhodri Malin, who joined the project last year, said: “The hops are very condition-specific and develop different aromas from their environment, which gives them geographical specific flavours.

“So every year the taste will be different. Last year, we made a 5.1 per cent pale ale. It had a citrus note and it really smelt of fresh hops. It came through really nicely and was very drinkable.”
The deadline to become part of the hop-growing project for this year is March 15, and orders will be arranged from that date.

For more information, contact Sam Holt at cardiffhops@gmail.com or on 07877791209.


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