Gardeners and allotment holders in Stroud, gathered at Stroud Brewery, bringing the hops they’ve cultivated during the summer to get the brewing of an annual autumn special beer, Brewers Garden, underway.
The brewery was set up using community investment and, during the pandemic when its situation looked precarious, the community rescued it again through a crowd-funding appeal. Community involvement is central to the ethos of the brewery.
More than 35 growers spent the morning picking the hops from the bines (the trailing stems that bear the hop flowers), chatting, swapping hop growing tips, meeting new people, drinking beer, and being serenaded by local band, the Dave Ayres Jazz Band. At 2pm, they watched as 53 kg of hops were added to the brewing vat where the beer will ferment for the next few weeks before going on sale to the public. The event even attracted people from Wales and Surrey who came to help pick the hops!
GALLERY: MARTIN PHELPS
This is the 15th year of the community hop growing project and participants hugely enjoy the social hop picking event, being part of making a special beer that the local community looks forward to each year, and receiving free beer in return for their efforts.
The Hop Club started from a conversation between Greg Pilley, the founder and MD of the brewery, Ian Thorn, the head brewer at the time, and customer Sue Day who offered to grow hops in her garden to help the fledgling brewery make more beer. The idea took hold and Greg’s offer of supplying hop plants plus free beer in return for hops was enthusiastically taken up by a number of local gardeners and new members have continued to join ever since.
Jas & Fiona Parker enjoy it so much that they’ve included the event in their 25th wedding anniversary celebrations! They’ve been growing hops for 8 years on their allotment, and look forward to the social event, seeing behind the scenes of the brewery, and knowing they’ve played their part in making a great-tasting beer.
Peter Bingle started growing during lockdown when he received free membership of the brewery’s beer and hop clubs as a thank-you for donating to the crowdfunding appeal. He thinks that growing hops and receiving free beer as a result is a perfect combination.
Russell Ashfield gets satisfaction from seeing people drinking the Brewers Garden beer in pubs and knowing he’s helped to make it. He also loves gardening and beer so considers being part of this project a perfect combination.
Mike Holyoake feels the same and this hop harvest festival was his first picking event. He’s planning to persuade more of the residents of the sheltered housing where he lives to get involved next year.
Pete Varley has been growing hops since the early days of the project. He’s a keen gardener and thought this was something a bit different to get involved with. Some years, he’s grown so many hops that his car’s been full of them! He likes being able to call himself a hop grower.
Nick Quayle has also been involved since the early days and his hop is now so well established that it grows up two cords along the side of Nick’s house and onto the roof!
The Brewers Garden beer will be available from the beginning of October and anyone who’d like to grow hops next year is welcome to contact the brewery on 01453 887122.