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Positive Progress

May 24, 2010

After 3 weeks I’ve have seen growth from all 8 varieties of hops, with Newport moving the quickest. We have seen a lot of sun lately here in Maine and it’s showing in the growth. I have been giving these little guys a good amount of water and they seem to be responding quite well.  Most seem to have their first sprouts ready to start training onto the twine and I will start doing so this week.  I had a small problem with grass and weeds growing in around the plants that I took care of by adding a layer of mulch to the pile surrounding the plants. I will be adding fertilizer this week, based on information obtained from this article that gives a few timeframes on when to add nitrogen and other elements to the soil. Fertilizing is another important topic that I plan to research and share some information on later. The newly sprouted plants and trellis ropes have gotten some attention from some of the store customers, and it seems like there is a bit of a buzz going about these little guys.  Hopefully they can have a nice healthy harvest to show off to the public.

Trellis Construction

April 10, 2010
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The method you use to construct your trellis is obviously based on how you plan your hop garden layout.  I was at an obvious advantage when constructing my trellis, as I already had a steel building to offer support and to plenty of space to plant facing the sun.  I contemplated creating a free standing trellis away from the building, allowing people to roam and explore the garden more freely, but future construction plans could have potentially forced me to relocate my hop garden, and I settled for the more permanent solution.  But everyone who tries growing hops will be faced with a different situation in terms of space, and once you have decided on a location for your plants, you can decide on which form of trellis best suits your area.  Here are some quality trellis examples I have found online:

Remember your plant’s needs when constructing your trellis:

  • Minimum of about 8 feet of height to maximize yield
  • Your plant will weigh, on average, about 20 to 25lbs at full growth so make sure your trellis can support this weight

Once you have your construction plans put together, gather your materials and get ready to race your hops to completion.  You should have your trellis completed by the time your hops are 6″ to 8″ so that they can be properly trained onto the twine.  For twine, I would suggest a sisal twine from a hardware store.  You can pick up upwards of 2250′ on a spool with 75lbs of test strength for less than $15 (Check it out here).

Remember to stay within your means when constructing your trellis.  If you have decided on an elaborate setup, with lots of cutting and building involved make sure you have the means and the know-how to do so.  Don’t attempt a huge project that will be costly and time consuming if you do not have the resources or the ability to complete your project within a short period of time.  Remember hops must be planted shortly after the ground thaws and will be ready to be trained on a vine within a few weeks of planting, so you are on a timetable when constructing your support structure. There are often easy and inexpensive answers to any project, and you must put your hops needs before your desire for an aesthetically pleasing design. Remember practicality over presentation because remember, your hops will still be the focal point of your garden no matter how much effort goes into the trellis.

Trellis Design Plans:

More Trellis Construction Examples:

http://www.gordosoft.com/hoptrellis1/

http://www.homebrewtalk.com/f92/my-hop-trellis-design-99256/

Planning Your Garden

April 2, 2010

A good site for your hop plants is the key to a healthy crop. The following criteria is the most important:

  • Sunlight exposure: Hops need lots of sunlight to grow properly. In the northern hemisphere a southern exposure is the best. 6 to 8 hours of full sunlight is needed to keep hops healthy.
  • Soil quality and drainage: The soil should be nutrient rich, with pH in the range of 6.5-8.0. Hops like a lot of moisture, but ground that stays too saturated after a heavy rain will promote the growth of mold and other diseases.
  • Vertical Space: Hops need to climb, a suggested minimum of about 12 feet. Commercial hops yards in America have 18′ trellis systems. Hops will grow even higher than that, upwards of 25 feet. A trellis system can be as simple as two poles with a wire strung between them. It needs to be strong enough to support the weight of the vines and withstand windy conditions.
  • Air Circulation: This will help to prevent diseases and will help keep pests to a minimum. If your area is really windy, a windbreak should be considered.

The side of a building that gets plenty of sunlight can provide a great framework for your garden.

For practical purposes, the side of a building that faces the sun during the day is the best place to locate your garden, so long as there is proper drainage. During the storm there should be no soil erosion occurring in the area you are going to plant, and the area should dry out quickly following the storm.  this method will save you the hassle of constructing an entire trellis, makes stringing your supports easy, and provides a decorative effect to the building. This is the method I have chosen, and will be stringing up 15 foot supports to the top of a building that faces the South. Against a fence in the backyard, or below a balcony are other practical choices. If these options are unavailable, but you have enough open space in the sun somewhere on your land that can grow hops, you are going to have to construct a trellis. To determine which trellis method will work best for your situation, take a look at some examples and consider your options.

Depending on how many hop plants you plan to purchase, you should stake out where you are going to put the hops in the ground to illustrate your future garden.  Make sure your stakes are in bright areas with proper drainage and are about 5 feet apart (if your hops will be different varieties).  Once you have a good idea of where you’re hops will be located, you can move on to constructing your trellis and preparing your soil for planting.

Hop Rhizomes Have Arrived: Rhizome Care and Preparing Your Soil

April 1, 2010

Hop rhizomes should be kept moist, cool and out of direct sunlight. Keep them in a plastic bag in the refrigerator until you are ready to plant them.

Hops are incredibly hardy plants that can really take a beating.  Once you have received your rhizomes in the mail, you may find that you need to store them for a short period while you finish preparing your garden and trellis structure.  If this is the case, you have to be sure to store them correctly so they are ready to grow once they hit the soil. To get the most out of your plants, your rhizomes need to be kept cool, moist and out of direct sunlight.  The quickest and easiest method of doing so would be to place them in a clean ziplock with a very small amount of water, and kept in the refrigerator.  It seems basic and self explanatory, but to get your hops plant off and running once it hits the soil, this is very important. Hop rhizomes will store well in this manner until the winter frost has subsided and you have prepared your garden for planting.

Once your rhizomes have arrived, you can get them off to a good start by adding lots of compost or well rotted manure to the soil before planting. Hops grow best in soil with a Ph of 6 to 7.5, and need plenty of nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, calcium, iron, zinc, and boron. I would suggest beginning with a 50/50 mixture of earth and commercial gardening soil, then adding a good organic fertilizer or compost to provide most of these nutrients.

Rhizomes can be planted horizontally, or vertically with the buds facing the sky.

The soil should be worked at least 2′ deep. Separate the plants based on variety.  Hops of the same type can be planted about 3′ apart, and with different varieties about 5′ apart, just to be safe. Plant the hop rhizomes 6″ deep and in raised beds. Rhizomes can be put in the ground either vertically with the buds facing the sky, or horizontally if you are unsure.  Cover the planted hops with a thick layer of mulch to prevent the soil from drying out and to keep weeds and pests to a minimum.

Don’t forget to MARK YOUR PLANT with a flag or other notation that will tell you what kind of plant is in the ground.  If you buy a handful of varieties like I did, things could get confusing if you don’t mark your plants in some way, and this is information you will want to remember down the road.

Buying Your Hops

March 29, 2010
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Purchasing hop rhizomes over the internet has become extremely easy over the past few years, with a range of companies now offering single rhizomes for very little cost (Usually under $5). All you need to do is find a company that distributes the plant and place an order online.  I have yet to read a bad review about any companies out there, so it seems as though your purchase will be simply a matter of preference.  But I do suggest that you consider shipping times when you decide on who you will be purchasing from.  If your hops are in transit for an extended period of time, there is a greater chance that they could dry out. You want to try to minimize the time that your hops are in an exposed environment where you cannot control the temperature and moisture levels that they are exposed to.  Before your hops are planted, rhizome care is important. Because of this you will want to consider choosing a distributor that is either located more closely to you, or choose a method of shipping that will get the hops to your door quickly.

Here is a quick list of suggested rhizome distributors:

The only distributor that I have personal experience with is Freshops.com, and would definitely recommend them to anyone looking to buy hops.  Their purchase was quick and easy, and because of my location, they upgraded my shipping for free to make sure my hops arrived healthy. So a tip of my hat to Dave over at freshops for the outstanding customer service.

Some of you may be lucky enough to know someone who is already growing a healthy crop of hops.  If this is the case, ask them if they could propagate you a batch of rhizomes from their growing season for you to use in the spring.  Most growers will be more than happy to grow you your own rhizomes for little to no cost. The best part is that you know these hops can strive in your region, and the overall time that the rhizomes are out of the ground will be next to nothing, with only a quick transplant required. It is always a great idea to establish relationships with the other growers in your area. It will be useful to have an extra resource, or someone to trade varieties with down the road.

Choosing Your Hop Variety

March 28, 2010

The type of hop you decide to grow can depend on many factors, including the hardiness zone you are located in.

Now that you have a general idea of what hops are, it’s time to decide what varieties you are interested in planting.  Of course some hops  Different hops grow better depending on your location, altitude and a few other factors, but with the proper care, you should see great growth from just about any variety if you are between the 30th and 50th parallels, thriving especially in hardiness zones 4 to 8.

Although most varieties will thrive if you are in a temporate region, there are a few variables you should consider when deciding on a variety of hops.  If you are planting your hops simply for their aesthetic value, then you are really free to choose any variety you please.  I would suggest deciding on a variety that will produce large yields and flourish well in your zone.  If you are in an area that sees a shorter growing period, you may want to plant a vine that will develop more quickly, allowing you to enjoy your plants for the longest possible period. Check the variety profiles at the bottom of this post to find the fastest growing varieties.

If you are like me, and are a homebrewing activist who plans on using hops in a homebrew, what you grow will be associated with what kind of beer you plan to brew, and what flavoring roles these hops will play in that brew.  Different varieties will produce cones with very different flavor profiles, as well as alpha and beta acid contents.

Your recipe may call for a specific variety, but you can substitute hops for those with similar AA percentages, so don’t feel entirely restricted to only use the hops specified in your recipe. There are times when specific rhizomes will be unavailable, so you may have to reach a compromise in terms of the variety you plant. Just remember that although using a different variety of hop with similar acid contents will create a slightly different flavor profile, you will maintain the overall structure of your beer. Below is a chart that lists the average AA content of the most common hop varieties.  This should be used as a general guide in deciding what varieties to utilize, should your decision be dependent upon AA content:

Hops Average Alpha Acids
Amarillo 9.5
Aquila 7
B. C. Goldings 5
Banner 10
Bramling Cross 6.5
Brewer’s Gold 9
Bullion 7.5
Cascade 6
Centennial 10.5
Challenger 8.5
Chinook 13
Cluster 6.5
Columbus 15
Comet 10
Crystal 3
Domesic Hallertau 3.9
East Kent Goldings 5
Eroica 12
First Gold 7.5
Fuggles 4.8
Galena 13
Glacier 5.5
Goldings 5
Hallertau Mittelfruh 3.75
Hallertau Hersbrucker 4
Herald 12
Hersbrucker 4
Horizon 12.5
Huller Bitterer 5.75
Kent Goldings 5
Liberty 4
Lublin 4.5
Magnum 14
Millenium 15.5
Mount Hood 5
Newport 15.5
Northdown 8.6
Northern Brewer 8.5
Nugget 13
Olympic 12
Omega 10
Orion 7
Pacific Gem 15
Perle 9
Phoenix 10
Pioneer 9
Pride of Ringwood 10
Progress 6.25
Record 6.5
Saaz 3.8
Santiam 6.5
Satus 13
Simcoe 13
Spalt* 4.5
Sterling 5.5
Sticklebract 11.5
Strisselspalt 3.5
Styrian Goldings 5.5
Super Alpha 13
Super Styrians 9
Talisman 8
Target 11.5
Tettnanger 4.5
Tomahawk 15
Ultra 4.5
Vanguard 5
Warrior 16
Whitbread Golding 6
Willamette 5.5
Wye Target 10
Yamhill Goldings 4
Yakima Cluster 7
Yeoman 7.25
Zenith 9
Zeus 15

Source: http://www.brewersfriend.com/2008/09/14/hops-alpha-acid-table/

I have also found a great hop comparison chart that can give you an idea of how to substitute hops for one another. That chart can be found here.

Because there isn’t a whole lot of information regarding the success of some varieties in my area (Zone 5), I’m going to conduct a bit of an experiment and see what varieties favor this climate.  I purchased 8 varieties, some of which I know should grow very well, and a few others whose success is somewhat unpredictable. I decided on: Fuggle, Williamette, Zeus, Cascade, Centennial, Nugget, Mt. Hood, and Newport. I picked up these varieties for $4.50 each from Freshops.com.

Freshops.com has provided a wealth of information regarding the known varieties of hops, as classified by the USDA. Click on a variety for a hop profile that can help you decide on which hops are best for your needs.

Ahil 21050
Alliance 66050
AlphAroma 21406
Apolon 21051
Aquila 21222
Atlas 21052
Aurora 21053
Backa 56002
Backa 21080
Banner 21287
Bianca 21698
Blato 21527
Blisk 21238
Blue Northern Brewer 21079
Bobek 21239
BOR 704 21285
Bramling 21284
Bramling Cross 68051
Brewer’s Gold 19001
Brewer’s Gold vf 21116
Buket 21240
Bullion 64100
Bullion 10A, vf 21056
Bullion 6A 21196
Calicross 66054
Canadian Redvine 21679
Canterbury Golding 21681
Cascade 56013
Cascade, vf 21092
Cekin 21613
Celeia 21611
Centennial 21507
Cerera 21612
Chelan (no USDA Nr.)
Chinook 21226
Cicero 21614
Columbus (no USDA Nr.)
Columbia 21040
Comet 62013
Crystal 21490
Defender 62053
Density 62052
Dunav 21081
Early Cluster 65103
Early Prolific 21276
Early Promise 21277
Eastern Gold 21678
Eastern Green 21700
East Kent Golding 21680
Eastwell Golding 21669
Elsaesser 21170
Eroica 21183
Eroica, vf 21220
F-10 (no USDA Nr.)
First Choice 66055
Fuggle 19209
Fuggle H 48209
Fuggle H, v.f. 21650
Fuggle N 21016
Fuggle tetraploid 21003
Furano Ace 21701
Galena 21182
Galena v.f. 21699
Golden Star 21039
Green Bullet 21404
Groene Bel 21216
Hallertauer Gold 21671
Hallertauer Tradition 21672
Hallertauer Magnum 21670
Hallertauer mf 56001
Hallertauer mf 21014
Hallert. mf tetraploid 21397
N.Zealand Hallertauer 21610
Herbrucker 6 21514
Herbrucker 8 21515
Hersbrucker 9 21516
Hersbrucker alpha 21518
Hersbrucker E 21179
Hersbrucker G 21185
Hersbrucker Pure 21673
Hersbrucker red-stem 21517
Horizon 21373
Hueller Bitter 21097
Hybrid-2 21167
Janus 62051
Kent Golding 21680
Keyworth’s Early 21278
Keyworth’s Mid-season 21279
Kirin II 21286
Kitamidori 21677
Landhopfen 21172
Late Cluster, L16 21011
Late Cluster, L8 65104
Liberty 21457
Lubelski-Pulawy 21113
Lubelski-Pulawy,vf 21523
Lucan 21528
Mt.Hood 21455
Nadwislanska 21114
Nadwislanska,vf 21524
Neoplanta 21082
Nordgaard 1478 21215
Northern Brewer 64107
Northern Brewer, vf 21093
Nugget 21193
Olympic 21225
Omega 21667
Orion 21675
Pacific Gem 21609
Perle 21227
Petham Golding 68052
Pocket Talisman 21115
Precoce d’Bourgogne 21168
Pride of Kent 21280
Pride of Ringwood 66052
Progress 66051
Record 21078
Saazer 21077
Saazer 36 vf 21521
Saazer 38 vf 21522
Saazer tetraploid 21534
Saazer Osvald 72C 21532
Saazer Osvald 72C,vf 21538
Saazer Osvald 72Y 21525
Saazer Osvald 72Y, vf 21535
Santiam 21664
Savinja Golding 61020
Saxon 21282
Serebrianka 21045
Shinshuwase 60042
Sirem 21214
SmoothCone 66056
Sorachi Ace 21702
Southern Brewer 21187
Southern Cross 21703
Spalter 21186
Spalter Select 21674
Star 21217
Sterling 21689
Sticklebract 21403
Strisselspalter 21173
Styrian 21049
Sun (no USDA Nr.)
Sunbeam 21697
Sunshine 21281
SuperAlpha 21405
Symphony (no USDA Nr.)
Talisman 65101
Tardif d’Bourgogne 21169
Tettnanger 21015
Tettnanger (Swiss) 61021
Tetnanger A 21496
Tettnanger B 21497
Tillicum (no USDA Nr.)
Tolhurst 21396
Toyomidori 21676
Ultra 21484
Universal 21531
US Tettnanger 21197
Vanguard Sel.Nr. 8251-167 (no USDA Nr.)
Viking 21283
Wye Viking 21283
Vojvodina 21083
Whitbread’s Golding 21668
Willamette 21041
Wuerttemberger 21682
Wye Challenger 21043
Wye Saxon 21282
Wye Target, vf 21112
Yakima Cluster, L 1 65102
Yeoman 21498
Yugoslavia Golding 61019
Zenith 21499
Zeus (no USDA Nr.)
Zlatan 21533

Source: Oregon State University High Alpha Acid Breeding Program

An Introduction to Hops

March 26, 2010

The vine grows in a clockwise direction around its support (as it follows the sun) and may reach up to 25 feet.

Hops are the flowers of the Humulus lupulus vine, a hardy herbaceous climbing plant from the family Cannabacese, sister plant to cannabis. It is a native wild plant of Europe and Western Asia. Today, Humulus lupulus are found most commonly at varying elevations between the 30th and 50th parallels. Hops have been popular over the course of history because of their essential role as an ingredient in beer. They contain bitter oils that have become a staple taste in beer since the 8th or 9th century AD, and balance out what would otherwise be a sweet beverage.  These plants are perennial and once they’re established, they will return each year, and can remain viable for up to 50 years. The vines develop into annual climbing stems, emerging from a perennial crown and rootstock. The stem grows in a clockwise direction around its support (as it follows the sun) and may reach a total height of 25 feet or more in a single growing season. Little hooked hairs on the bines help them attach themselves to the twine or ropes that hop farmers provide, but they are fairly versatile creatures, and will wrap around just about any reasonably rough surface.  The stem dies back to the crown after the hop cones mature, and the weather begins to turn toward winter.

When fully developed, the strobiles are about 1 1/4 inch long, oblong in shape and rounded.

Hops are dioecious, which means that male a female flowers are produced on separate plants. The male flowers are produced in panicles and average about 4 inches in length.  The female flowers are leafy and cone-like structures known as strobiles. The female plant is commercially cultivated for its use in beer, with the male flower being used mainly for pollination. Although the makeup of the hop cone is fairly basic, it is also entirely unique. From a brewer’s perspective, the advantage to hops is the concentrated amounts of specific alpha acids, namely humulone, adhumulone and cohumulone.  These acids offer bittering flavors that can be manipulated during the brewing process to deliver a wide range of desired flavor profiles in beer.

Sources:

http://www.botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/h/hops–32.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hops

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Humulus_lupulus

http://www.usahops.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=hop_farming&pageID=2

http://www.homebrewtalk.com/wiki/index.php/Alpha_acids#Alpha_acids

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