Author Topic: Setting up a hop yard  (Read 1615 times)

Offline akr71

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Setting up a hop yard
« on: September 01, 2011, 06:25:12 AM »
This was my second year growing hops in my backyard.  I am in the process of moving to a place outside of town with 9 acres of land and will be planting a couple more varieties than the 3 I currently have planted.

Upon hearing about my move, a friend of mine who is the brewmaster at a prewpub (& in the process of opening a production brewery), asked if I'd plant an acre under contract to him.  He continually has difficulty securing contracts for his harvest/fresh hop ales in the fall.  Now, an acre is a bit much to get going by next spring, but I certainly wouldn't mind moving in that direction and he seemed satisfied that it may take 3 years or more to get to an acre.

If I'm going to do this I need to think about more than just supplying hops for 1 or 2 fresh hop/harvest beers a year.  Drying the hops on that kind of scale is the big unknown for me.  Any suggestions on how to dry hops on that scale?  What other points am I missing?
Andy

Amherst, NS - Canada

Offline hopfenundmalz

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Re: Setting up a hop yard
« Reply #1 on: September 01, 2011, 06:35:19 AM »
Don't disount the labor involved with tending your hops through the season.  The harvest can be tough.  A guy in the club has about 1/2 acre planted with a partner, and they need the help of the brew crew from theh brewrey that buys them to harvest the hops that go directly into a beer.
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Offline VinS

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Re: Setting up a hop yard
« Reply #2 on: September 01, 2011, 06:57:55 AM »
If he is makeing a harvest / fresh hop ale from my understanding your not drying the hops, your picking and brewing. You might cut the bine at the bottom a day or 2  before to make bine and leaves and cones dry alittle might make picking easier.
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Offline denny

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Re: Setting up a hop yard
« Reply #3 on: September 01, 2011, 08:48:47 AM »
Don't disount the labor involved with tending your hops through the season.  The harvest can be tough.  A guy in the club has about 1/2 acre planted with a partner, and they need the help of the brew crew from theh brewrey that buys them to harvest the hops that go directly into a beer.

THIS!  People seem to think that after you plant them, they grow by themselves and that's all you have to do.  The harvesting, and especially the drying and packaging, are where all the work is.  This is not intended to discourage the OP, but just to make sure he thinks his plan through.
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Offline akr71

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Re: Setting up a hop yard
« Reply #4 on: September 01, 2011, 08:52:59 AM »
Don't disount the labor involved with tending your hops through the season.  The harvest can be tough.  A guy in the club has about 1/2 acre planted with a partner, and they need the help of the brew crew from theh brewrey that buys them to harvest the hops that go directly into a beer.
I haven't forgotten that.  Hops are very labor intensive (on a small scale).  In previous years, my brewer friend has rounded up members of our club to harvest for/with him in exchange for a couple pounds to take home with them and beer & lunch on harvest day.

If he is makeing a harvest / fresh hop ale from my understanding your not drying the hops, your picking and brewing. You might cut the bine at the bottom a day or 2  before to make bine and leaves and cones dry alittle might make picking easier.
I understand that, but if I'm going to do this, I want to recoup my investment quicker than hops for 1 or 2 harvest ales a year at a brewpub.  At rate of 4lb/bbl, that is 14 lbs hops for a 3.5bbl system - 70lbs of fresh hops.  I harvested more than 10lbs of of 2 plants, so I would need a minimum of 14 plants, more for safety sake.  4 rows of 10 plant each is going to take up less than a tenth of an acre, but going to yield more than a metric crapton than he can use in a couple batches a year.

So I have to figure out how to dry and store on a larger scale, or give up the idea.
Andy

Amherst, NS - Canada

Offline akr71

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Re: Setting up a hop yard
« Reply #5 on: September 01, 2011, 08:56:44 AM »
Don't disount the labor involved with tending your hops through the season.  The harvest can be tough.  A guy in the club has about 1/2 acre planted with a partner, and they need the help of the brew crew from theh brewrey that buys them to harvest the hops that go directly into a beer.

THIS!  People seem to think that after you plant them, they grow by themselves and that's all you have to do.  The harvesting, and especially the drying and packaging, are where all the work is.  This is not intended to discourage the OP, but just to make sure he thinks his plan through.

Point taken Denny - even my 3 little plants required a lot of work, especially the trellises.  Harvesting by myself was pretty time consuming too.  I do want to think this all through before I commit to anything, because I'm not quitting my day job to try and run a tiny hop yard single handed.
Andy

Amherst, NS - Canada

Offline theDarkSide

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Re: Setting up a hop yard
« Reply #6 on: September 01, 2011, 09:02:14 AM »
THIS!  People seem to think that after you plant them, they grow by themselves and that's all you have to do.  The harvesting, and especially the drying and packaging, are where all the work is.  This is not intended to discourage the OP, but just to make sure he thinks his plan through.

Well actually my brother found some in the wild and every September we go and pick them.  Still don't know what variety they are...maybe I'll post a picture in a couple weeks.

Thing that sucks is they look better than the ones I "take" care of.
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Offline hopfenundmalz

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Re: Setting up a hop yard
« Reply #7 on: September 01, 2011, 09:03:58 AM »
The commercial farms plant about 1000 hop plants per acre.  

I have 11.  Can't even imagine working on 250 for a quarter acre.
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Offline pinnah

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Re: Setting up a hop yard
« Reply #8 on: September 01, 2011, 09:06:34 AM »
You might cut the bine at the bottom a day or 2  before to make bine and leaves and cones dry alittle might make picking easier.

I cut off some bines the other day, and then had to leave town for a couple days.  I found out that plucking the cones off a semi dried bine is a PITA, and much harder than normal green picking.




akr71, where are you located?  Are there other small time growers in the area?  Around here in western Colorado, some small time farmers are banding together and trying to set up a regional oast, as well as hop picking equipment that can be shared.

If you are in a dry climate, an uninsulated metal shed works really well as an oast.

+1 on lots of labor.  I know a guy here that has 8 acres planted and he has been at picking for a couple weeks, some times with as many as 50 people picking.  Plucking hop cones by hand is time intensive.


Offline VinS

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Re: Setting up a hop yard
« Reply #9 on: September 01, 2011, 09:36:06 AM »
Andy, looked up hops in NS Canada. Found A guy Josh Herbin in Wolfville. He received a grant to grow hops in 2007 and planted a acre. I dont know your location to his but maybe make a joint venture or see what he does.
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Offline denny

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Re: Setting up a hop yard
« Reply #10 on: September 01, 2011, 09:45:20 AM »
+1 on lots of labor.  I know a guy here that has 8 acres planted and he has been at picking for a couple weeks, some times with as many as 50 people picking.  Plucking hop cones by hand is time intensive.



There's a guy down the road from me who has a hop farm.  He hires a mechanical harvester to come in.  But I live in heavy hop growing territory.  That option might not be available everywhere.
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Re: Setting up a hop yard
« Reply #11 on: September 01, 2011, 09:54:33 AM »
I think that if the brewer who wishes to contract with you is serious about the local angle he should be willing to pay a premium for that aspect of your harvest. Similarly there may be other brewers in your local  area (here defined as within a days drive or about 200 miles radius in any direction) might also be interested in the local angle it might even become cost effective to hire local PT workers for the harvest. I bet a fair number of teenagers would be enthused about being involved, in a small and legal way, with the production of beer. And teenagers are usually more than willing to work for min wage. Depending on the unemployment situation in your area it could spell a real (if small) boon to the local economy.
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Offline tschmidlin

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Re: Setting up a hop yard
« Reply #12 on: September 01, 2011, 10:03:03 AM »
Contact James Altwies at Gorst Valley Hops.  They run a small hop farm in the midwest, and run workshops on how to grow your own as a small scale farmer.  The next intro one is in a few weeks in Madison WI:  http://www.gorstvalleyhops.com/hops101.php

I'd be tempted to make the brewer go with you to help him understand the financials and work involved.
Tom Schmidlin

Offline akr71

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Re: Setting up a hop yard
« Reply #13 on: September 01, 2011, 11:01:18 AM »
You might cut the bine at the bottom a day or 2  before to make bine and leaves and cones dry alittle might make picking easier.

I cut off some bines the other day, and then had to leave town for a couple days.  I found out that plucking the cones off a semi dried bine is a PITA, and much harder than normal green picking.

akr71, where are you located?  Are there other small time growers in the area?  Around here in western Colorado, some small time farmers are banding together and trying to set up a regional oast, as well as hop picking equipment that can be shared.

If you are in a dry climate, an uninsulated metal shed works really well as an oast....
Definitely NOT a dry climate here - East coast Maritime climate, but you raise a good point.  I was talking to a a guy who runs a  farmers' coop last night and discovered that they grow hops.  He was excited to find out that I am a home brewer and could put him in touch with other home brewers.  He has a surplus that he didn't sell to his contracted breweries.  He's less than an hour away and I blieve there is another farm about 90 minutes in the other direction.  A partnership makes a lot more sense.

Andy, looked up hops in NS Canada. Found A guy Josh Herbin in Wolfville. He received a grant to grow hops in 2007 and planted a acre. I dont know your location to his but maybe make a joint venture or see what he does.

I've heard of his farm, but he's not exactly close.
« Last Edit: September 01, 2011, 11:22:19 AM by akr71 »
Andy

Amherst, NS - Canada

Offline akr71

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Re: Setting up a hop yard
« Reply #14 on: September 01, 2011, 11:21:57 AM »
Contact James Altwies at Gorst Valley Hops.  They run a small hop farm in the midwest, and run workshops on how to grow your own as a small scale farmer.  The next intro one is in a few weeks in Madison WI:  http://www.gorstvalleyhops.com/hops101.php

I'd be tempted to make the brewer go with you to help him understand the financials and work involved.

Good stuff - Thanks!  I've been reading over this manual from Left Fields Farms

I'm leaning more and more toward the 'no' side, but spring is a good ways away.
Andy

Amherst, NS - Canada