On the 20th September, 6 ½ of our finest homebrewers hit the road and traveled west to Stocks Farm, Worcester.
Stocks Farm has been operating for 200 years and has been run by the Capper family for the last 57. The farm specialises in English hop varieties and English apples used for cider.
We met Jo, who was kind enough to organise our visit for us and we started our tour taking a walk around the orchards where they grow English apples for both supermarkets and to go into cider. Jo talked us through the picking process and how the supermarkets are extremely strict on the size and shape that apples have to be and so the picking is done by hand and the pickers are given a guide prior to starting and anything that doesn’t fit the criteria is left on the branch or dropped to the floor.
As we walked around the farm Jo showed us a set of cooking apple trees that are no longer used for cider making but still make a gorgeous apple pie. The trees were trimmed as they grew to manipulate them into the shape below which allows the pickers easier access to the apples. Nowadays the trees are manipulated even more to the shape above
After the orchards, we walked further along the farmland to the hop garden. And what a sight it was too.
We arrived at a row of vines that were still to be picked. The hop cones were a luscious green. We were able to smell the hops and you could really appreciate the freshness. Jo informed us of the picking process and that the pickers would have to manually walk along the rows cutting down the rope that the hop vines had grown up so that the hop picker would be able to go in between the rows and pick the hop leaves from them.
Then we went to see where the magic happened. The processing shed is a thing of beauty. First, the vines are sent through a machine that strips the hop leaves from the vines.
Then the hop leaves that come of the vines are taken up a conveyor belt where they drop through an opening and any larger pieces of vine or debris are continued along to a garbage chute.
After this, they are transported into the kiln where the temperature is raised to 62-68 degrees by blowing hot air up through from the bottom of the pile hop leaves.
Once through this process, the hops are placed in an attic type space where they control the temperature and left to dry further.
Finally, the hops are packed up for shipping off to the various destinations across the UK.
Although some of the hops don’t have very far to travel at all as on-site there is the first brewery on a hop farm called, The Hop Shed.
The Hop Shed is owned and run by Anna and Hannie Saleh. Prior to opening the brewery Anna was an avid homebrewer and developed the recipe’s brewed at the brewery on a small 100ltr kit that she trials on her husband, friends, and family.
It was a lovely addition to the tour of the farm and of course as responsible brewers ourselves we stopped in to ensure the beer was quality controlled. Even our ½ man Peter enjoyed himself.
Alas, all good things have to come to an end though right? Wrong!
Discovering that just around the corner ( a mere 36 miles, albeit, on the way home) was DEYA. Being so close and not stopping into the brewery would, of course, be rude, so we stopped in for a quick stop and sampled some of their wares also.
Sadly, this is where the day ended. 6 ½ weary gents very much in need of sustenance and rest. A great day was had by all involved and we are very much looking forward to the next one.