Thursday, March 31, 2005

Hop crop, pt. 1

Oh, crystal ball!

Already sprouting tiny (and apparently delicious) shoots in their little shipping packets, the new season's delivery of hop rhizomes has arrived. Now I just need to decide which ones to plop in the ground - meaning, decide which beer I'm likely to brew in September when the cones are ready for picking - and which ones I ought to pass around to friends and family to grow in their gardens like the little Johnny Hoppyseed that I am. The choices: Santiam, Willamette, Northern Brewer, Goldings, and Hallertau.
Any suggestions? I'm leaning towards the Santiam simply because it's unfamiliar, apparently a more recently developed American variety with some noble hop characteristics. And it's purty, too! Stay tuned for the exciting [Hey, they grow about a foot a day in the summer, okay? That's excitement!] developments as the first harvest in our new digs gets underway...



Blogger Adam said...

I just received a shipment of hops too! Do you have any experience planting? I'm going to follow the instructions at Northern Brewer's website, but, it's always nice to hear from somebody who has done it first hand :-)


11:27 AM  
Blogger Rob said...

Funny you should mention it just as I was about to post a "hop drama '06" update. All the rhizomes from last year have started coming back up for another shot at glory.

Things I've learned in the past few years of growing the little buggers:

- Unless they're a couple years old, cut down all but one or two of the shoots that emerge from the ground to conserve the plant's energy. You'll be better off with a couple really strong bines than a bunch of wimpy ones that don't go anywhere.

- They need LOTS of light in order to grow flowers. The vines will grow anywhere, but don't expect cones unless they're getting a full 8-12 hours of direct sun in mid-summer.

- Just like they need lots of light, they need equal amounts of darkness. The plants use the cycle of the day to regulate when to produce the flowers, which means if you leave them in a place that gets direct light all night long, they won't produce cones, either.

- They grow fast, so be prepared to know where you want them to grow. Wear gloves, unless you want the little prickly hairs getting under your skin where they can really drive you nuts. And know that when you're done with the season, you'll want to be able to take them down pretty easily. Training them on strings is the best bet - in the fall, you just cut down the strings. Easier than wrestling with knotted trellises, for sure.

- Lastly, don't expect a huge payload at the end of the first season. Prepare a nice green hop ale recipe that you can brew when the hops are ready to pick, and throw them in at the last minute for your aroma/flavor hop addition. Don't bother trying to bitter with them, since you have no real way of knowing the alpha acid content of your crop. And enjoy how beautiful they are!

11:52 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home