Record-breaker hits Nicholson’s pubs

Top of the HopsTop of the Hops, a new brew crafted by Yorkshire’s Cropton Brewery and appearing in Nicholson’s pubs, includes 2012 different varieties of English hops.

Grown by Peter Darby, the UK’s unofficial hopfather, each hop is part of his ongoing research to find the most aromatic and best bittering hops suited to the UK’s unique climate. For once the word “unique” truly can be applied: the 2013 edition will have a new range of experimental hops.

Known as Wolf of the Woods in Latin (Humulus Lupulus), hops are a cousin of Cannabis and respected for their soporific properties as well as their beer friendliness. They arrived in the UK from Europe in the 16th century, causing controversy from the beginning – Henry VIII banned their use in brewing for starters.

Responsible for the aromatic, bittering and preservative properties of beer, in the 19th century, the UK grew 77,000 acres, a figure which has now dwindled to just 2650 acres, due primarily to the globalisation of beer production, the popularity of wine, and groovy new hops hitting these shores from the rest of the world.

Hops-Stocks farm

While Kent and Hereford remain pockets of excellence for hop growing, it’s a painstaking process developing new breeds, taking several years to identify the right hop and then to cultivate it commercially. 

Merchants like Charles Faram act as their cheerleaders. Not only do they supply Britain’s dynamic band of brewers with hops from all corners of the globe, they also encourage and support the UK’s hop farmers as they develop new varieties with the help of Peter Darby and his research set-up, Wye Hops Ltd. 

Available in all Nicholson’s pubs, Top of the Hops is the latest in a series of special beers introduced by their beer maestro, Ben Lockwood – check out his seven Christmas ales if you see any of them still around. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Ben used to work at The White Horse on Parson’s Green, widely regarded as a hotbed of craft brewing since the start of its London renaissance. 

For more on the beer, check out Yorkshire Brewery's website