Now that Oktoberfest is ripe upon us, hops are falling from their vines, ready to be turned into crowns of bitter scents. Yet, hops are more than decorative necklaces to pair with your pretzels at beer festivals. If you’ve ever brewed your own beer or even thought of doing so, you’ll have heard of growing hops so that your homebrew is built from the ground up.Hops are conical floral buds from vines that are used in India Pale Ales and other “hoppy” brews. Not only are the vines and large, deeply green leaves beautiful, hops create bitter flavors and amazingly sweet and flowery aromas. You’ll probably have noticed some of these elements in any of our beers from the
Earlier this month, we have spent plenty of time discussing Cascade hops so by now you should get the idea that hops are conical floral buds from vines. They’re used in India Pale Ales and other “hoppy” brews to add a little complexity to your beverage. You’ll probably have noticed some of these elements in any of our beers from the Imperial Collection or our Organic Collection. Alright, so while you sample a few of these excellent beers, let’s talk about how to grow your own hops for your next batch of beer.
Hop Rhizomes: When and How to Get Your Hands on Them
March and April are the prime months to purchase and plant hop rhizomes, which are really just root-like sections of the hop plant. You can order your rhizomes all over the internet and in different varieties. I like Midwest Supplies, but my favorite option is getting local roots from hop growers who are cutting back their rhizome crowns.
When and How to Plant Your Hop Rhizomes
As soon as the soil can be worked (whether it’s cold out or not) it’s safe to plant your rhizomes. Choose a south facing wall with hanging rope (coconut husk rope does the best), fence, or pre-strung trellis for your future vines to climb up. Plant your rhizome either vertically or horizontally but covered in roughly one inch of dirt. If you want to get really technical, your rhizomes will grow best in soil with a pH of six to eight.
Caring for Your Growing Hops
Once your hop vines become established, they really don’t require a ton of maintenance, however, first-year hops lack a decent root system and therefore need more attention. Firstly, water your hops frequently, never letting them stay dry for too long. The best method here is to just water them and then let the soil dry out and water again. If you fail to let the soil dry out between waterings, your rhizomes may rot.
Harvesting Hops from the Vine
Hop harvest is when Summer turns to Fall (that’s right about now!) or when you pinch your hop cones to find a sticky, almost powdery yellow resin on the tips of your fingers. This is lupulin, and it’s the good stuff! When this shows up in abundance near the start of Fall, you’re ready to pluck and place hops on a drying surface (like an old window screen).
Drying and Storing Your Hops
I like to keep our hops in a vacuum sealed bag and then place them in the freezer for later use. Then, I crack open an Imperial IPA and get ready for my next batch of homebrew.
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