Author Topic: the case for growing your own hops  (Read 500 times)

Offline chinaski

  • Brewer
  • ****
  • Posts: 440
the case for growing your own hops
« on: August 19, 2022, 05:56:28 pm »
As I am about to finish another year's harvest of my own hops (about 16 hills, about 8 varieties), I'd like to advocate for growing your own and report some observations from more than 12 years of growing at my home in Vermont.  Just like so many aspects of homebrewing, growing your own hops offers so many opportunities to both learn a lot (sometime via failures) and control variables that otherwise are out of your hands.  Example- I can harvest individual hop flowers as they are ready on the bine and leave other flowers to mature for later- in general flowers lower on my bines tend to be ready earlier than those higher up.  I can choose harvest date.  I can also control how they are dried- I build an "oast" that is powered by an old-fashioned hair drier that I can adjust heat level.  I've found that a lower heat preserves more aroma.

I also recognize that I am very privileged to have both the time and space to grown, dry, package, and save enough hops to be, in my terms, "hop independent" - I grown enough to satisfy my brewing activity of 10-14 batches a year.   It brings me a lot of satisfaction and challenge to my brewing- I encourage everyone to give it a try!  (start with Cascade or Chinook is my advice...)

Offline dannyjed

  • Senior Brewmaster
  • ******
  • Posts: 1438
  • Toledo, OH
the case for growing your own hops
« Reply #1 on: August 19, 2022, 06:55:37 pm »
Very cool! It’s great that you have stuck with it for so long. My homebrew club has a 1 acre hop farm in NE Ohio that we took over from OSU. My wife volunteered once a week this summer. This is our 2nd year and we just had a first harvest for this year last weekend. We took our hops (Chinook, Cascade, Centennial, Columbus, and Galena) to Mr. Wizards up in SE Michigan and they process them, dry, and pelletize them. I helped process them with my wife and other club members at the facility on harvest day. It was interesting seeing all of their fancy equipment and learning how it all works. They even test all of our hops for all the different acid percentages, package them, and broker what we can’t use. The Chinooks smelled amazing and was the best yield of all so far. Next week we have to harvest Nugget, Golding, Willamette, Mt. Hood, and Sterling.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
« Last Edit: August 19, 2022, 06:57:19 pm by dannyjed »
Dan Chisholm

narvin

  • Guest
Re: the case for growing your own hops
« Reply #2 on: August 19, 2022, 07:42:49 pm »
I do it for fun but it's not going to replace the hops I buy for now.  This is a challenging climate to grow in. I don't think PNW varietals taste as good grown here, but I enjoy some other ones a lot, especially continental-like hops.

Unfortunately this year almost all of the cones have downy mildew.  Looking to purchase some systemic fungicides like tanos or pristine, but not sure it's worth the price.

Offline Richard

  • Brewmaster
  • *****
  • Posts: 802
Re: the case for growing your own hops
« Reply #3 on: August 19, 2022, 08:45:26 pm »
If you are in an area where downy mildew is a problem you should look for strains that have been bred to be resistant. That is a much easier approach with fewer side effects. I don't know if that is possible in hops, but it is certainly true with many other crops.
Original Gravity - that would be Newton's

Offline denny

  • Administrator
  • Retired with too much time on my hands
  • *****
  • Posts: 25892
  • Noti OR [1991.4, 287.6deg] AR
    • Dennybrew
Re: the case for growing your own hops
« Reply #4 on: August 20, 2022, 08:34:02 am »
I grew for 15 years. For me, it was fun for a while. But as my plant produced more and more each year, it became a chore for me to pick, process, and pack.,couple that with the fact that I realized I coukd but better quality hops for a small price, and I eventually gave it up. But if you have the space, climate and inclination, give it a try.
Life begins at 60.....1.060, that is!

www.dennybrew.com

The best, sharpest, funniest, weirdest and most knowledgable minds in home brewing contribute on the AHA forum. - Alewyfe

"The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts." - Bertrand Russell

Offline chinaski

  • Brewer
  • ****
  • Posts: 440
Re: the case for growing your own hops
« Reply #5 on: August 20, 2022, 08:59:37 am »
Very cool! It’s great that you have stuck with it for so long. My homebrew club has a 1 acre hop farm in NE Ohio that we took over from OSU. My wife volunteered once a week this summer. This is our 2nd year and we just had a first harvest for this year last weekend. We took our hops (Chinook, Cascade, Centennial, Columbus, and Galena) to Mr. Wizards up in SE Michigan and they process them, dry, and pelletize them. I helped process them with my wife and other club members at the facility on harvest day. It was interesting seeing all of their fancy equipment and learning how it all works. They even test all of our hops for all the different acid percentages, package them, and broker what we can’t use. The Chinooks smelled amazing and was the best yield of all so far. Next week we have to harvest Nugget, Golding, Willamette, Mt. Hood, and Sterling.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
Wow- what a cool opportunity/collaboration with OSU and others.  Our extension office worked with hops over the years- some of the varieties I have been successful with (e.g. Saxon) were sourced from plants that originated at one of their study fields long ago.  Good to hear that home brewers are involved with growing hops around the country.

Offline reverseapachemaster

  • Official Poobah of No Life. (I Got Ban Hammered by Drew)
  • *********
  • Posts: 3653
    • Brain Sparging on Brewing
Re: the case for growing your own hops
« Reply #6 on: August 20, 2022, 09:18:12 am »
It's definitely some work to harvest but so little work involved during the growing season that overall hops are a fairly easy grow. I have four plants in half barrels and one is just starting to produce and that takes about a full day to harvest. I can't imagine how much time goes into harvesting sixteen hills.

My goal was always to get to the point where I could grow hops to fulfill most of my hop buying needs for flavor/aroma. I don't brew a lot of super hoppy beers so a little goes a long way. I've been able to brew a keg of fresh hop beer every year and as my plants are getting settled in I suspect I will meet or exceed my goal. We don't get a ton of fresh hop beers around Denver, surprisingly, so it's cool to fill that void. I ended up harvesting slightly early this year and already drinking my fresh hop beer. Let's call it a black XPA with 8 oz fresh chinook and 22oz fresh mount hood as a whirlpool addition in a three gallon batch. It's not IPA aggressive but the huge amount of mount hood made for a good forest-y flavor.

I also think if you have the inclination and climate for it, you should give it a shot. A rhizome is $5 so it's not a big investment. If you leave it as an ornamental it's a nice looking plant. I didn't find it satisfying to try and fail year after year in Texas to try to grow them, so make sure you can grow them and pick a variety suitable for your climate.
Heck yeah I blog about homebrewing: Brain Sparging on Brewing

Offline BrewBama

  • Official Poobah of No Life. (I Got Ban Hammered by Drew)
  • *********
  • Posts: 5462
Re: the case for growing your own hops
« Reply #7 on: August 20, 2022, 09:41:54 am »
There’s a local brewery that has a few scraggly hop vines growing which look about like the plants I tried to grow. I guess AL is just not all that great for hop cultivation.

narvin

  • Guest
Re: the case for growing your own hops
« Reply #8 on: August 21, 2022, 01:52:29 pm »
If you are in an area where downy mildew is a problem you should look for strains that have been bred to be resistant. That is a much easier approach with fewer side effects. I don't know if that is possible in hops, but it is certainly true with many other crops.

Unfortunately I've found out that there are resistant varieties, but none are immune.  There are a couple that are susceptible that I'm ripping out because they never do well and I think they spread it to the other plants this year. 

https://www.uvm.edu/sites/default/files/media/DownyMildew.pdf

I know a lot of the local hop growers here had a really rough year.

Offline Richard

  • Brewmaster
  • *****
  • Posts: 802
Re: the case for growing your own hops
« Reply #9 on: August 21, 2022, 05:22:04 pm »
True, resistant does not mean immune. Just like in coats, water resistant does not mean waterproof!
Original Gravity - that would be Newton's

Offline redrocker652002

  • Brewmaster
  • *****
  • Posts: 545
Re: the case for growing your own hops
« Reply #10 on: August 22, 2022, 01:41:43 am »
My wife wanted to give it a try, so we did.  First year in the backyard in buckets.  So far the Chinook is really doing well.  The Cascade and Columbus, not so much.  It is kinda cool to watch them mature and see what the process is.  Not sure when we will harvest what little is there, that is my wife's call.  She is the green thumb. 

Offline denny

  • Administrator
  • Retired with too much time on my hands
  • *****
  • Posts: 25892
  • Noti OR [1991.4, 287.6deg] AR
    • Dennybrew
Re: the case for growing your own hops
« Reply #11 on: August 22, 2022, 08:54:15 am »
My wife wanted to give it a try, so we did.  First year in the backyard in buckets.  So far the Chinook is really doing well.  The Cascade and Columbus, not so much.  It is kinda cool to watch them mature and see what the process is.  Not sure when we will harvest what little is there, that is my wife's call.  She is the green thumb.

FWIW, containers really limit their growth. Maybe that's what you're looking for.
Life begins at 60.....1.060, that is!

www.dennybrew.com

The best, sharpest, funniest, weirdest and most knowledgable minds in home brewing contribute on the AHA forum. - Alewyfe

"The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts." - Bertrand Russell

Offline reverseapachemaster

  • Official Poobah of No Life. (I Got Ban Hammered by Drew)
  • *********
  • Posts: 3653
    • Brain Sparging on Brewing
Re: the case for growing your own hops
« Reply #12 on: August 22, 2022, 10:14:12 am »
My wife wanted to give it a try, so we did.  First year in the backyard in buckets.  So far the Chinook is really doing well.  The Cascade and Columbus, not so much.  It is kinda cool to watch them mature and see what the process is.  Not sure when we will harvest what little is there, that is my wife's call.  She is the green thumb.

I struggled to get hops to grow well in half buckets. I just couldn't keep even moisture in the barrel and the roots seemed too warm. I ended up burying the barrels about 80% deep which solved all of my problems. If you can block the bucket from getting direct sun, that might help the other two grow well.
Heck yeah I blog about homebrewing: Brain Sparging on Brewing

narvin

  • Guest
Re: the case for growing your own hops
« Reply #13 on: August 22, 2022, 10:57:56 am »
Make sure you punch holes in the bottom of the container.  Not only will this allow for proper drainage, but the tap roots will grow down into the soil and keep the plant hydrated longer.  The hops shouldn't spread since the rhizomes with buds stay near the surface of the soil.

5 gallon buckets might be a little narrow, though.  I'd suggest something more like this:

https://www.homedepot.com/p/Southern-Patio-22-44-in-Dia-x-14-96-in-H-Rustic-Oak-High-Density-Resin-Whiskey-Barrel-Planter-HDR-023395/205626595

Offline redrocker652002

  • Brewmaster
  • *****
  • Posts: 545
Re: the case for growing your own hops
« Reply #14 on: August 22, 2022, 10:43:03 pm »
Thanks guys, I will bring this up to her and see what she says.  The buckets she used are bigger than 5 gallons I am pretty sure.  I think they are the white containers you can get at Lowes with the rope handles on them.  I am not sure where their final spot will be as she has most of the backyard set up for gardens and vegies.  But I will let her know what you all said.  Thanks again.