Saturday 21 April 2012

Hopping down in Kent

"I used to love hop-picking when I was a child.  The village children went along with their mothers in the summer holidays (especially late in Kent in those days to allow for the hop picking season)."
The message above is on this 1960s card

Kent, the Garden of England, used to be the main centre of production of hops for the brewing industry.

Hops are climbing plants and were trained up poles and wires.

The harvest season lasted for 6 weeks, from the beginning of September.  It was very labour intensive and whole families would come down from London and elsewhere to work for the season, known as "hopping down in Kent".

Once picked, the hops had to be dried in oast houses, the buildings with conical roofs seen in the background of the second two postcards.

At one time 77,000 acres were devoted to hop farming but foreign imports reduced this to something in the region of 33,000 acres.  Nowadays there is relatively little hop growing  in Kent, though there is still a certain amount (3,000 acres) and the picking is now mechanised.  The reduction of hop growing is mainly the result of modern tastes having changed from beers to lagers.  Brewing lagers uses fewer hops.

Oast houses can still be seen around Kent but most have been converted into private homes and at least one is now a museum.

A post for Sepia Saturday.  A click on the button will take you to the blog.

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  1. I like the third one especially. We just watched the 3rd programme in the ‘Our Food’ series, which was in Kent, and of course hop-picking was featured.

  2. I really enjoyed learning about hops as I have never been around an area where they are grown. It is a same that the industry has all but disappeared in Kent.

  3. I feel like I've been on a tour. Fun!

  4. Delightful cards. Kent is a county that I've only passed through on the train. Lager drinkers have a lot to answer for -perhaps that's where the trem 'lager louts' comes from.

    1. I must have been caught on the 'hop' - term, of course!

  5. This is what I love about sepia Saturday - skipping from cemeteries to backyard gardens and then to hop picking. So much to learn.

  6. This was such a fun read. The trend in Oregon seems to be very different, as the micro brewers here use a lot of hops - sometimes too much for my taste. You can buy hops plants at the nursery here too. Why I bought one four years ago is really beyond me, but I have a Kent Golding plant that threatens to consume my house every summer. It is extremely vigorous. perhaps I should think about making beer...

  7. I'm not a beer drinker at all...give me wine, any day..or a good dark rum!! Or Grey Goose vodka, none of which India offered or had at a reasonable price. I am still hoping to go back soon. It's been wonderful to find good, reasonably
    priced California wines again.

  8. That was very interesting. I didn't know where hops grew or that hop picking was popular. I have never even seen a hop.

  9. Cool! We have hop farms in Oregon, but I didn't know any of the details or about lagers need less hops. Great post, thanks!

    Kathy M.

  10. I knew that hops were used in beer but the only spirits distilled around my neck of the woods is bourbon and I don't think it uses hops. Very interesting post for sure.

  11. Nice post. Still plenty of oast houses to see in Kent but not many hops now. My grandparents/parents still used to go hopping in the 50's.



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