Posted on

Albion Ales, origins of a name

Albion Ales, origins of a name

It is strange how good ideas often come from the coming together of a set of disparate ideas and how great ideas can grow from rather casual beginnings into a Eureka moment. The origin of our new Albion Ales, British hops series is an example of all those things.


One of our passions is chamber music, and we have a friend, Fraser Wilson who works with our favourite Sheffield Chamber Music group, Music in The Round.  Fraser also heads up Albion Choir, a venture of his own which brings together a small group of mainly young singers to sing Fraser’s new arrangements of songs from these islands. As the choir’s website says “Uniquely among choral groups, ALBION sings the music of "these islands" – England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales – and further afield. The islands’ musical heritage stretches back a thousand years, offering a rich store of treasures: dances, folksongs, madrigals, plainsong chants, airs, anthems, and more. In their variety and beauty, they lie at the heart of Albion’s inspiration.”


Having met Fraser one day just before Christmas 2013 at Sharrowvale street market, where he was enthusiastically flogging the choir’s Christmas CD and Christmas concert in Millhouses, we went to one of the concerts and were completely entranced by the haunting arrangements, fabulous singing and interesting staging. We have been loyal followers ever since.


We arranged to have a Moonshine with Fraser before one of the Music in the Round concerts in May and he shared with us his passion for this music, adding that he thought some of the themes and names in these songs would make excellent names for beers in the spirit of many of the Abbeydale names. We discussed it again when Fraser and his friend Duncan visited the brewery for a rather boozier afternoon one Saturday.


Our initial thought was a little dismissive – so many people think they have good ideas for beer names and so few of them actually are good names – but this idea niggled and would not go away.


In our brewery we do use some English hops but most of our hops are from the US, Australia or New Zealand, mainly because these hops deliver the flavours we love. (–and we can digress for hours on why the flavours are different in English and new world hops). But there are some really good English hops around and English growers are developing new varieties which pack more flavor.  We had done our Four Yorkshiremen of the Apocalypse beer using specifically English hops and the British Hops logo and recently we have used some experimental English hops to good effect.  So perhaps the time was ripe for us to support British hop growers by doing more beers making a feature of English hops. Fraser’s suggestion melded well with that notion. Eureka!


The other aspect to selling beer is the pumpclip, and anyone familiar with our beers and especially the specials, will know that we have a very talented artist locked in a cupboard (for his own safety, honest) who generates amazing ideas and images for our pumpclips. So I ran the idea past him. As a patriotic soul with his own wide knowledge of music and poetry, he embraced it willingly. Eureka! And with a final homage to our friend Fraser and the Albion choir, the Brit-hop Albion Ale series of beers was born.


The first in the series is an extra-special beer made with freshly harvested green hops – there is a separate blog about this very special beer. Next up in the series is a Full English Breakfast Stout.


And do check out the forthcoming concerts for both Albion and Music in the Round, both local ventures providing world-class music and well worth giving a try and supporting.

Music in the Round       Albion

Sue Morton

Posted on

Hopping down to Hereford

Hopping down to Hereford

Early September brings one of the treats of the brewers’ calendar, a trip to the Hop Walk organized by hop merchants Charles Faram. This year the location was Pridewood Farm, Ashperton, Herefordshire. Hops have been grown there since the 19th century and the Powell-Tuck family have been continuing this tradition for almost 20 years.

There were over 300 UK brewers there to participate in a day of learning more about hop growing and harvesting and to listen to various experts giving updates on state of the hop harvest around the world and the effect on price and availability of this essential brewing ingredient.

Alongside all of this there was of course, the chance to sample some beer – not too much for me, I was driving the van but Patrick took good advantage. This year featured pairs of beers  brewed in the conventional way but with one firkin with of hop oils added. This may be a way in future of making hops go further by extracting the oils and adding those to beer rather than using whole hops or pelleted hops. Of course this stimulated much debate between traditionalists and those who see this as a way forward. I am sure it is a debate we will hear more of if the growth in small brewers continues to outstrip the planting of hops.

This year Abbeydale decided to take advantage of the opportunity to obtain some hops straight from the field and make a “green hop” beer. (The downside of this was having to drive rather than catch the train). Normally hops, once separated from the bine (stalk and leaves), are dried gently. This stabilizes them so they can be packed and stored for quite long periods so they can be transported and used thoughout the coming year or so. Green hops are taken from the field, separated and then put into sacks. They then need to make their way into beer within hours or, like any vegetable matter they will start to rot and compost.

Because the hops are not dried we needed eight times as much in weight, so at the end of the day we loaded up our van with 100kg of freshly harvested Early Goldings hops and in less than 24 hours they were in the beer. Indeed one of the main challenges was fitting them into the hop back!

Making a green hop beer is such a special thing – a sort of brewery harvest celebration – that we wanted to make a big thing of it. We have wanted for some time to do a series of beers featuring English hops, our Albion Ale series, so what better way to launch them than to start with this green hop beer. It will be called Scepter’d Ale, ABV 4.1% and in fermenter it is tasting very soft, floral and sweet. Final flavours have yet to develop, but with no dark or crystal malts to hide the hops, this should be one lovely beer.

  • About Us

    A true Sheffield institution founded in 1996, Abbeydale Brewery blends heritage and tradition with creativity and innovation, showcasing these values across an unparalleled range of beers.

    Abbeydale Brewery brochure

  • Contact Us

    Abbeydale Brewery Ltd
    Unit 8, Aizlewood Road
    S8 0YX
    Telephone: 0114 281 2712
    Email: [email protected]


Sign Up