Hops A-Z: F is for Fuggles

Once upon a time there was a kindly gentleman by the name of George Stace, who resided in the village of Horsmonden, Kent. One day, in the year of 1861, he noticed a seedling that had grown in his garden that had set from the basket crumbs of a hop-picking dinner. This plucky hop bine was introduced commercially some fourteen years later by another kindly gentleman, Richard Fuggle. And so the Fuggles hop did become the greatest hop in all the known beer world and there was much rejoycing in the streets of Kent.

Or that maybe just a bunch of bullshit.

What we do know is that, even if the widely received tale of the Fuggle hop genesis is disputed, some bald facts cannot. It's a hop that's had a defining influence on English bitter. Renowned as a heavy cropper, suited to the stiff, damp soil of the Kentish/Sussex Weald, it came to dominate crop production in the early twentieth century. By 1949, 78 percent of the English crop acreage was given over to Fuggles. It offered up the aroma and taste of the earth and of the grass and of the wood. It was quintessentially English, a way of imparting our rural idyll in a glass. And then it all went drastically wrong.

Verticillium wilt marked the beginning of the end of Fuggles dominance in England. The disease ruined the Kent crop; when replacement hop varieties offered higher alpha acid for better bittering, demand for Fuggles shelved. Now less than ten percent of English hop acreage is given over to Fuggles, mainly in the West Midlands which was historically resistant to the wilt outbreak.

It's still a madly popular hop, though. Still soldiering on, perhaps because nothing *quite* matches that 'rural' profile, not even those Fuggles variants grown overseas. If you fancy England in a beer glass, this takes you half way there. The rest, you may find tomorrow...

1 comment:

  1. Really enjoying this series on hops. Entertaining and also bloody informative. Looking forward to sticking with you all the way to Z!