Hop shoots - they score!

Peter Haydon“Go forth and act like locusts.” So said our commander, the bomber-jacketed Peter Haydon, as we began picking hop shoots in delightfully dry conditions on Friday.

Thus the first phase of Operation Hop Shoot Festival began: the picking of several dozen bags of hops to share among 18 London pubs and restaurants that evening. Peter, renowned beer and pub historian, owner of the Florence Brewery in Herne Hill, and brewer of the fascinating historically tinged A Head in a Hat beers, had once more gathered a motley crew of brewers, pubbers and other hop lovers for this year’s London Brewers Association Hop Shoot Festival.

Ann and Frank Tipples kindly hosted us locusts again this year at their farm, Harts Heath, gifting us their spare Admiral shoots. And so we set to it, crouching, picking and gathering our way along the ordered rows of hops. As we did, our thoughts were turning to the second phase of the operation: how they would be cooked this evening.


Beer sommelier Jane Peyton said “They can be treated like asparagus or samphire. Very tasty when sauteed and yummy raw.”

Ann FairBrother said that at Cornercopia, her neighbourhood restaurant & deli in Brixton, they’d be serving the shoots with golden carrors, Brighton Blue cheese, pumpkin in a sauce based on a reduction of one of Kernel Brewery’s beers. “Our chef, Ian, feels they are more like pea shoots than asparagus,” she said.

The Bull at Highgate crewMeanwhile Dan Fox, here with colleagues Della and Nicky of The Bull in Highgate, was planning a couple of variations: appearances in eggs hollandaise, and also with Barnsley lamb shop and jersey royals. “We’ll boil them briefly and then sweat them.” he said.

First bag of hops

Matt Clay, seen below with JJ, a fellow Drafthouse GM, was feeling particularly peckish.

Derek Prentice from Fuller’s had not only kindly supplied us with a tasty brew – amazing how thirsty we became when that was revealed – but also set up our own field kitchen. Helen Steer, serial foodie entrepreneur at City Farmers and edible map genius – her latest app, the tasty Real Food Wales had just been launched – was first back with a bag of hops. She joined Derek in rustling up a range of hop shoot delights – my favourite was the omelette. 

But this was only Phase 1. The real graft was about to begin, as Peter ran through Project Dispersal: how these carrier bags of hops were to reach their destinations in time for that night's dinner service.

From PowderKeg Diplomacy in the West to the Dean Swift in the East, from a pair of DraftHouses to the Old Red Cow in Smithfield, diners were due their hop-shoot influenced menus in just a few hours. There wasn’t a moment to lose: it was back into the motors for the dash back to town.

London Hop Festival 2013Home is where the hop is

Special mention must go to the posse from Brixton Beer Co. Fielding a third of our pickers, this fab collective of Brixton residents are each growing their own hop plants at home. “It’s the perfect city plant,” says co-founder, sustainability consultant and architect, Ann Bodkin, speaking about its vertical growing tendency. Come the autumn, Peter gives out strict instructions when the hops should be harvested and delivered to his brewery. In its first year, 4.5kg of hops turned into over 1000 pints of beer. With over five times the members this year, who knows how much will emerge.

In the meantime, it was off to the pubs and restaurants of London to see how the hop shoots were faring on the menu. Me? I was off to see what my tender shoots would match with on the fish front. 



Feeling peckish - JJ and Matt of Drafthouse

The next London Brewers Alliance event will be a collaboration with Wandsworth Common Beer Festival for a pop-up London Brewers festival the first weekend of July at Le Gothique. 

Keep in touch with the London Hop Shoot Festival via Facebook & Twitter, @LondonHop.

Further pictures of our day can be found on the DrinkBritain Facebook page.