Mark found hops growing wild on the Galloway coast near his home.
This is unusual in Scotland, however hops can be found growing wild more frequently in England and locations around the world endowed with longer daylight hours and less erratic temperature shifts.
Hops are currently one of the trendiest ingredients in craft bartending thanks to the craft beer movement. As these were wild hops I unfortunately did not know the specific strain, however I immediately saw potential in the incredibly full-bodied, chocolatey aroma. I called upon my friend Jehad Hatu from Glasgow-based progressive craft beer popup Grunting Growler for help with identification, and he found the same coffee and chocolate notes, as well as a distinctly ‘cheesy’ aroma, before explaining the balance of alpha and beta acids within the chemical structure of hops and the huge effect this can have on your end product.
Bitterness is much sought-after in cocktails, with classic ‘bitters’ such as Angostura being used from the early days of the art. They are heralded by bartenders for the complexity and depth they can provide in a single dash. These wild hops, led by categoric bitterness, suggested the potential to be used in a similar vein. Their aromatic depth was striking, with bright, soft, autumn-fruit notes bursting from underneath the darker prevalent flavours.
To process the hops, I first placed them in the dehydrator at 35 degrees for 48 hours, turning twice daily. This ensured that they were fully dried and suitable for use and storage, It eliminated the risk of mould, wilting or a rancidness that can be found if hops are left wet. I had a good harvest, so I vacuum packed and froze the excess for use at a later date.
When making drinks, particularly in a bar environment, consistency is one of my greatest concerns. To produce an ingredient from these beauties I wanted to ensure that the process is easily replicable so I set out to make a tincture that would capture their best qualities.