Everyone’s heard of food miles, but Arkell’s Brewery has believed in beer miles for years – and at hop harvest time head brewer Alex Arkell drives just eight miles down the road to inspect this year’s hop crop, at Berkshire Hops, Kingston Bagpuize (which is actually in Oxfordshire – confusing we know).
Alex said: “We’ve bought our Fuggles and Goldings hops from Tim Blanchard at Berkshire Hops for almost twenty years – it’s the only hop farm in Oxfordshire, and it’s also the closest hop farm to the brewery. Why travel miles when something so good is on your doorstep?”
For this year’s hop-picking Oxford pubs Rickety Press and Rusty Bicycle landlord Chris Manners went along to see how it all works – and came away with some hops to decorate his pubs.
Tim Blanchard and his family have been growing hops for almost fifty years, and now his sons James and Edward have joined the family business. The Blanchards grow hops across 50 acres of the farm, the rest of the 1100 acres is mainly arable, with 700 pigs.
“Most hop farms are in Herefordshire and Worcestershire, Kent,” explains Tim. “Hop farming began here in the 1920s and our family got involved in the 1930s.”
The hop is, according to, Tim an amazing plant. It’s got wonderful preservative qualities (one of the reasons brewers put it in beer), and it’s a member of the nettle and cannabis families. It also has separate male and female plants and is full of essential oils.
For Alex Arkell, local hops help give Arkell’s beer it’s distinctive taste and flavour. “Unlike many of the bigger breweries who buy cheap hops in bulk from abroad, many family breweries such as Arkell’s love the fact that our beer is not only brewed in the traditional way but it’s also using local ingredients.”
This year’s hop harvest is nearly in, thanks to Berkshire Hop’s new hop harvesting equipment (purchased after the farm’s kilns suffered devastating fire damage in 2010), and Arkell’s will be taking delivery of the new hop crop soon.