The hop parade

In days of old, hops were the security guards of your regular ale. They made sure the beer arrived looking good, safe and sound in your glass. No more.

Hops

The last few years hops have taken centre stage, applauded for their aromatics as well as their bittering properties.

And more recently, brewers have gone one step further, taking the risk and letting distinctive hops take to the stage in a solo capacity. As with many things in life, there's a reason blends are the norm, offering the chance to balance out each of the other's more distinctive features.

Until now, it's been the small or medium-sized craft brewers in the UK that have put their brews on the line. Kernel's Citra IPA is one of those game-changers. So hats off to those Burton bastions of good brewing, Marston's for bringing out not one single hop beer, but a year-long series of monthly specials.

They have all been brewed to the same recipe and strength (4%), except for the hops. For these. they scoured the globe and plundered the treasure trove that is the warehouse of hop specialist Charles Faram over in Worcestershire.

A variety show

In pubs now, the March Single Hop is the British stalwart East Kent Golding. Renowned for its gentle earthyness and the spice that it lends to its beers, true to form this is a warming, yet refreshing pint.

January saw the first UK appearance of Wai-Ti, a typically exotic hop from New Zealand, while Galaxy was the Antipodean arrival for February.

Next month we head to Germany for a dose of Hallertau Mittelfruh, a eucalyptus-scented, citrus-infused "noble hop" – so-called because of its long heritage.

Single Hop pump clip

Hops speaking – and smelling – of their sources

The pungency of Cascade from America hits the bars in May, while in June, it's Poland's turn with tangeriney pine notes of Marynka, and July has the classic spicy Slovenian, Styrian.

August will be new to me: Strisselspalt from Alsace in France is apparently a grassy, floral little number. Then its Nelson Sauvin, with its clear-as-a-bell gooseberry character from the region of New Zealand best known for Sauvignon Blanc.

October sees Citra before the second new Kiwi of the year, Kohatu – "tingly pine and exotic fruit notes" – and finishing in December with another "noble hope", Saaz, an earthy, fruity little number.

Understandably, this series has been several years in the making, and I'm pleased to say, Marston's is already planning for next year. To be honest, I had hoped that my top hop - Bramling Cross - might make it onto the cast list. Sadly not, but I did hear its auditioning well for next year, so fingers' crossed. And in the meantime, I'm got plenty to keep me exploring.

Cheers!

The beers will be available in selected Marston's pubs, Taylor Walker pubs in London, and Chef & Brewer pubs. To find out your nearest Chef & Brewer, head to the Single Hop website.

In honour of this series, Marston's is our new Producer of the Week.