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XT Brewing head brewer Russell Taylor: prototype hop varieties - known only as CF160 and CF182 - were in evidence in Brit Hop, a strong pale ale served at this year's GBBF

Prototype hops get rare reveal during GBBF

In an unusual move, the latest British contenders for a place on modern brewing’s hop palette were showcased at this year’s Great British Beer Festival.

Prototype varieties - known only as CF160 and CF182 that were developed by Charles Faram - featured in a limited edition strong pale ale called Brit Hop, brewed by Buckinghamshire-based XT Brewing Co.

Festival visitors had the chance to taste the cask beer on the brewer’s stand before it is trialled in the trade.

XT, which since it was launched six years ago has built up a strong relationship with hop merchant Faram, is one of only a few brewers chosen to test new varieties on a commercial scale, experiments that are usually conducted undercover.

“There are a whole number of hurdles a new hop has to jump, including whether it smells right and crops well, and then it comes down to how it behaves when you brew with it,” explained XT head brewer Russell Taylor.

“That can be done in small batches by Faram, but you don’t get the same results as you do with a commercial brew. We can see how the flavours evolve over a few weeks, and then find out how the beer performs in the pubs.”

He added that as a smaller brewer that doesn’t use wholesalers and deals direct with the on-trade, XT can keep closer track of a brew’s success on the bar.

Taylor developed his own recipe for Brit Hop, one in which “the other ingredients have to take a step back to allow the hops to shine through”. Notes of passionfruit, green peppercorns and sweet peaches were expected.

And although different kinds of packaging will have an impact on flavour, cask, he said, is the best medium for foregrounding a full breadth of hop characteristics.

Faram has been running its hop development programme for more than a decade in the hunt for British-grown hops that can compete with powerfully-flavoured New World varieties.

Several new and increasingly familiar names have emerged from this rigorous process including Jester, Olicana, Minstrel and Archer.

Phil Mellows
18th August 2017

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