This year’s show received the largest number of entries in over a decade and hop growers, brewers and industry supporters descended upon Marden’s cricket clubhouse on the evening of 22 November 2017 to celebrate this year’s bumper harvest and inspect samples from a range of varieties.
Organised by the Weald of Kent Ploughing Match Association, the annual competition is open to all growers, with the different hop varieties grouped in classes depending on their corresponding aroma profiles.

The best sample in the show was awarded to a Whitbread Golding variety grown by Stephen and Daniel Sewell at Little Pell Farm in Wadhurst.

“I think it is down to the soil, how we dry the hop and there is also a lot of family help and commitment which goes into producing the best hops we can,” said grower Daniel Sewell. “It has been a kind year with the weather and we have had a good crop, probably one of the best years ever.”

With current trends emphasising the importance of aroma, it is no longer the prettiest sample which takes the prize. This year’s hop judging panel Andy Hepworth, Hepworth Ales; Russell Falkener, Steiner Hops; and David Berry, Cellar Head Brewing, were looking for cones with a bountiful amount of fragrance as well as an optimum shade of green to show that they have been picked at the right time.

In the alpha acid category, the laboratory results with the highest reading pinpoints how valuable the hop is. This year’s highest alpha acid content for an Admiral variety was awarded to Frank and Ian Tipples, with G M Day and Sons receiving the highest for Target.

With an increasing number of local breweries, the competition also includes a class for the best hopped ale. This year’s judges John Lamb and Nigel Chubb from Adnams Brewery and hop grower Andy Sanders chose Countryman by Tonbridge Brewery as the beer brewed with the best hop character, which included Fuggle and Pilgrim hops from Ross Hukins at Hukins Hops.