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My hops. Let me show you them.

September is the time to harvest the hops. Next door in Kent is big hop-growing country, and has been since the 16th Century. Before then, lots of different herbs had been added to beer to make it bitter (to counteract the sweetness of the malt), but hops have a preservative, plus a slight antibiotic effect which makes conditions more favorable for brewer’s yeast.

Of course, they didn’t know shit about antibiotic effects in fifteen-hunnert-something. They just knew beer made with hops turned out better and lasted longer.

It took a quarter of a million workers to bring in the crop, about a third of whom were vacationing London families from the East End. A hell of a vacation that must have been, sleeping in crappy little hopper huts and working in the fields all day. But the money was good, it was out in the country, and it seems to have been pretty sociable work.

Fresh hops were then taken to oast houses, which are giant drying kilns. In the 19th C, oast houses took on a distinctive shape: round towers with conical roofs — usually in two or three in a cluster. The roofs have a little flange that catches the breeze and moves a vent to face the wind.

Or did. All the harvesting and drying is done industrially now, of course, and the oasts have been converted to housing. Tons of them around here.

I’ve been trying to get my hands on some hops for several years. In old houses and pubs with low beams, it’s traditional to hang strings (or “bines”) of hops along the beams like curb feelers, to warn people off smacking their noggins. They look and smell great. But you have to get them fresh, before they go brittle and dry, and they disappear into the beer trade very fast.

We stopped at a fruit stand for some plums and another customer pulled in, the back of his car full of freshly-picked hops. I mugged him. He’d picked them for some other middle-class pretend-farmer’s-wife country wannabe, but weasel got there first.

Somewhere in England tonight, a woman named Tallulah or Cassandra or Jemima is thinking of lost hops and crying bitter tears.


Comment from Can’t hark my cry
Time: September 23, 2010, 11:35 pm

Uncle Badger doesn’t grow his own?

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: September 23, 2010, 11:42 pm

Not a beer drinker, our Uncle B.

Comment from Bill (now the .000357% of your traffic that’s from Iraq) T
Time: September 23, 2010, 11:43 pm

“Hops!” — goes the Weasel…

Comment from Uncle Badger
Time: September 24, 2010, 12:11 am

“I just want a few hops,” said Her Stoatliness, airily.

As it turned out, we’d taken the Mazda (Miata) that day and the damned things filled the boot (trunk) to overflowing. Never seen so many hops in my life – and the living room now smells like a dodgy Kent pub.

Strangely, hops are supposed to be an aid to sleep and they still sell hop pillows for insomniacs.

I find vodka works better.

Comment from Can’t hark my cry
Time: September 24, 2010, 12:40 am

Perhaps you could infuse the vodka with hops? I mean, it really does give a nice finish to the taste of beer. Of course, that may not be much of a recommendation to someone who doesn’t like beer. OooooKay. NEXT!

About growing them–I seem to remember reading that, trained on strings, they can make a nice leafy shade from the sun. So you could grow them as an ornamental. Or, of course, you could continue to hijack other peoples’ hop deliveries. There is a certain freebooting charm to that approach!


Comment from steve
Time: September 24, 2010, 2:01 am

I think I want to be a hops rancher, when I grow up….

The very thought of fine micro-breweries beating a path to my door….

Comment from SCOTTtheBADGER
Time: September 24, 2010, 2:18 am

What a singularly weaselesque way of getting one’s hops! I am a teatotalling Badger, as far too many of my relatives are alcoholics, but it is made easier by, in my opinion, beer having a singularly nasty taste, rather as is someone had taked grains and herbs, mixed them together, wet them down, allowed them to rot, and then decided to drink the runoff.

Badgers in England drive Miatas? Here in Wisconsin, we drive 4X4 pickup trucks. Well, this post means that I shall certainly have my thoughts turn stoatwise, as I drink my Dad’s Root Beer at lunch in the wee hours tonight, at work. Dad’s is a premium root beer, for you non American’s.

Comment from Nina from GCP
Time: September 24, 2010, 3:50 am

Hops are extremely easy to grow, Stoaty…surely you can get some next spring to plant in the garden.

And Scott, ditto here. I do make mead, but I don’t drink it except to taste. Weird, yes?

And to update on the kid, she spent a day and a half in custody of the UK immigration service, was escorted to a plane and deposited on it forthwith. She is now in Philly with a wonderful GCPer, God bless her, and has to go through the WHOLE VISA PROCESS AGAIN, and pay for her ticket back to England if that ever gets done. She didn’t know ’til she got off the plane that someone would be waiting for her, and cried tears of joy with she saw Orthoi with a sign that said NIETA.

Now back to your regularly scheduled programming…

Comment from Can’t hark my cry
Time: September 24, 2010, 4:08 am

Oh, Nina! Such good news, and such infuriating news! There is nothing useful to say, but I still feel like saying “best of luck to her,” so I will. And will think those thoughts fiercely until she has actually touched down in Hull and started her studies. (Ignore this question if it just emphasizes bad stuff but. . .when does the academic year actually start?)

Comment from Rich Rostrom
Time: September 24, 2010, 5:17 am

That’s a lot of hops. I find one or two ounces or so of hop pellets, and an ounce of finishing hops, to be plenty for five gallons of beer.

Though those little hop clusters don’t weigh much, so maybe it’s only a few ounces worth.

Still and all – fresh hops, straight from the field. I covet.

And of course, now you must brew.

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: September 24, 2010, 11:50 am

I’m so glad she’s safe, Nina. I didn’t want to worry you, but detention at Heathrow used to have the most dreadful reputation. They’d throw college age girls in a room with all the obvious psychos and nutjobs they pulled off planes and leave them together in there for hours without a phone or anything. I think they may have cleared that up now, after many MANY complaints.

Good luck to her. Dot all the i’s and cross the t’s!

Comment from Little Black Sambo
Time: September 24, 2010, 11:59 am

You often see wild hops growing up telegraph poles.
Some beer is made with green, not dried, hops. They made it at Hook Norton; is that common?

Comment from Some Vegetable
Time: September 24, 2010, 4:29 pm

…it’s traditional to hang strings (or “bines”) of hops along the beams like curb feelers, to warn people off smacking their noggins…

Hence the expression “Hophead” ?

Comment from Scubafreak
Time: September 24, 2010, 6:25 pm

Looks like Hoppsalong Stoatie is about to open her own brewery. Maybe she can start distilling some of her ill-got gain into her own personal vintages of ambrosia…. 😉

Comment from Mazzuchelli
Time: September 24, 2010, 6:26 pm

Yes, but what about them chickens?

Comment from Bill (now the .000357% of your traffic that’s from Iraq) T
Time: September 24, 2010, 7:31 pm

OT, but did anyone tag Eddie Fisher in the Pool?


I blame Liz for breaking his li’l ol’ heart *mumblety* years agone…

Comment from Bill (now the .000357% of your traffic that’s from Iraq) T
Time: September 24, 2010, 7:41 pm


*profound bow with sweeping flourish of pluméd cavalier chapeau*

Comment from QuasiModo
Time: September 24, 2010, 8:53 pm

Clicking on your hops picture takes you to Zazzle’s ‘Farmhouse and Daisies’ picture…is that on purpose? 🙂

Comment from Uncle Badger
Time: September 24, 2010, 8:57 pm

This badger certainly does drive a Miata, Scott – but only to keep it warm until her Stoatliness passes her damned UK driving test.


A 4×4 would make sense out here in the country but the damned things guzzle fuel which costs a million pound a gallon in the UK now, thanks to socialists and hippies. So I drive what the stoat likes to call a ‘doofusmobile’ (is that how you spell doofus?).

Must say, I was 100 per cent wrong about that Miata/MX5. I used to tease her that it was a hairdresser’s car. It’s not. It’s a real joy to drive – especially on twisty country roads.

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: September 24, 2010, 8:58 pm

Yep. I’ve been meaning to mention that, Quasi. All my pictures now link to random junk of mine on Zazzle.

Links to my products help to move me up the Google search hierarchy, which is important. But I hate to post about merchandise; it feels like I’m hitting you guys up for money. So I figured if I quietly linked my pictures to stuff, it would have the same effect without seeming so crass.

Nome sane?

Comment from QuasiModo
Time: September 24, 2010, 10:50 pm

Okay…thought it was a mistake cuz it didn’t have your banner or no mention of your name.

Very nice photo 🙂

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: September 24, 2010, 10:56 pm

That’s where I put kittens and chickens. Somehow, putting kittens next to Zombie Reagan didn’t feel right.

I’ve been tempted to link to other people’s stuff, though. Zazzle pays a bounty of 15% on referrals, whether it’s your junk or not (hence the links in the upper right sidebar). There’s a lot of nice stuff over there.

And some hilariously bad stuff. This one is my favorite.

Comment from Can’t hark my cry
Time: September 24, 2010, 11:02 pm

The shirt at that link is just so. . .sad. Unless it is intended as some kind of post-modern injoke. In which case it shouldn’t be sold publicly, but there, I’m just old-fashioned, I guess!

Comment from QuasiModo
Time: September 24, 2010, 11:11 pm

“That’s where I put kittens and chickens. Somehow, putting kittens next to Zombie Reagan didn’t feel right.”

Nah, I guess it’s a different market 🙂

An image that might be cool for you to do is a ‘Zombie Last Supper’ where Obumbles is in the Jesus position and put Pelosi, Reid, Frank, Dodd and the rest of that cast of characters are arrayed out along the table…might be an excellent pre-election image…maybe with November 2, 2010 with some kind of caption underneath?…what do you think? 🙂

Comment from Frit
Time: September 24, 2010, 11:19 pm

Like SCOTTtheBADGER, I’m a tea-totalling ferret, and for much the same reason. I pretty much stick to green or herbal teas, and hot cocoa. (Why yes, I AM a chocoholic, now that you mention it.)

However, I’ve a few friends back in the USofA who brew their own beer, wine, mead, etc., and I cheer them on when I can.

Congratulations, Stoaty, on the successful pirating of the fresh hops! 😉

Comment from Armybrat
Time: September 24, 2010, 11:22 pm

I tried to grow hops for several years when I lived in Kansas. Never got taller than 2 feet. Too hot I think. I ran a dedicated drip irrigation too them, so plenty of water. No luck…which ment I had to buy all the hops for the beer I brewed.

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: September 24, 2010, 11:25 pm

I think that sounds like a HELL of a lot of hard work, Quasi 🙂

Comment from QuasiModo
Time: September 24, 2010, 11:29 pm

Yeah, but it’d rock 🙂

Comment from SCOTTtheBADGER
Time: September 25, 2010, 2:18 am

Cousin Badger, what a pity Ford Rangers are unavailable in the UK, 4X4 and 20 MPG. I sure like mine. I had a full size Chevy 4X4 that got 18 MPG, but had a V-6. There is a woman named Trilby Lundberg here in the States, who keeps track of fuel prices, and in late August, she was predicting gas at $2.309 by the end of Sept. I just got back from the local BP station, and fueled up at 2.699 a gallon. But it was $2.739 this morning, so we will see how close the Trilbysaurus comes.

Comment from Nina from GCP
Time: September 25, 2010, 3:32 am

Actually, Stoaty, she did get sent to that awful place they send immigration criminals like American College Students. She was not allowed the phone card they are supposed to give her, she was not allowed to speak to someone from the American Embassy as she is required by treaty to be able to do, they searched her bags and her person, they questioned her about her plans and how does she know this man who was breaking down the doors to get to her and get her out of there, they took her credit cards, passport and AAA card, they even asked her if she was preggers. If you’re registered at GCP you can go read the whole saga over there. Grim.

School starts Monday. They’ve already been informed that due to their screw-up (or is it their cock-up?) she probably won’t be there on Monday and they’d better not give her one bit of trouble about it.

Comment from Anonymous
Time: September 25, 2010, 10:44 am

Geez, Nina, when I went through Heathrow in ’07, they couldn’t have been nicer. One look at the visa I had for Pakistan and they hand-carried me right through all the mini-fiefdoms they have set up there, and seemed oddly *grateful* that I hadn’t killed any of them in the process…

Comment from Deborah
Time: September 26, 2010, 6:22 pm

I like that we can just see a bit of your Weasel shirt in the photo. How festive to string hops down the beams!

I used to buy strings of chile ristras when I was visiting in New Mexico, but I haven’t been there in a long time. http://www.nps.gov/petr/historyculture/chile.htm

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: September 26, 2010, 7:51 pm

Heh. Nicely observed, Deborah. Zazzle had a 50% off sale on white t-shirts, and I finally took the plunge and bought something. I feel a little…self-promotional wearing it.

Wow! Those chile ristras are impressive! I have a thin, pathetic string of chilis over the stove, but it pales into insignificance…

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