Purely by luck I was welcomed to my new Kent home by a hop festival in Faversham. It seems that for the last 20 odd years the town has celebrated in a new way what was once a working-holiday for Londoners. The hop picking season in Kent was vitally important for its local economy, but it was also an opportunity for Londoners to undertake a paid-holiday to the countryside. Check out this short video from Pathe for an example of what this entailed:
KENT – HOP PICKERING
Although the ‘romantic’ view presented by this pathe video is not quite how it would have been – the work was hard – hop picking is nevertheless something worth remembering and celebrating. Thanks to a talk at the Shephard Neame brewery (based in Faversham) I learnt that although the first evidence for hops in this country can be found in evidence taken from a trading boat find dated to the Anglo-Saxon period, it was not until the fifteenth-century that hops became a standard component for beer, and then later for ale.
Does this make the Tudor era the first full century when hop beer was drunk properly in this country? I also learnt that Britain is the only place to use the male component of the hop plant as well as the female (elsewhere the male part is sterilised!) giving British beer a distinct bitter taste. Interesting stuff!