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Hop Growing - Page 2

The First Year in Minnesota
We moved to Minnesota during August of 2005, hop growing would have to wait for spring. Hops do not take up a large space in square foot terms, but they need a place to climb.

They need good air circulation in order to prevent diseases, and as much sunlight as they can get.

I received two Cascades rhizomes from Steve Piatz, as his were growing out of control and he had to trim them back. I took them home and placed them into the fridge until I could buy something for them to grow on. I purchased a seven foot tall windmill at Fleet Farm for the hops to have something to grow up. I planted the hops vertical (incorrectly) rather than horizontally.

My wife insisted on planting the petunas between the hops plants. Hop plants thrive on moist, rich soil with a pH around seven (between five and eight should be okay).
 

The Second Year in Minnesota
Most plants will not produce anything the first year. However, you may get lucky like I did, and have a few cones - nothing meaningful. Only one plant survived the winter, it automatically sprouted early spring and quickly grew to the top of the windmill. By early August I noticed many small hops cones/flowers, by early September they were full in size. It should take about 3 years to get firmly established. The second year, you will see more bine growth, and more leaves. I did get more hop flowers/cones, but not enough to use. My problem, if you can call it that, was during the optimal time to harvest I would be on a cruise through Alaska! I sent a note out to my homebrew club (SPHBC) in case anyone wanted them, so I wait for another season. The third year after planting is when you should see a full crop of cones.

The Third Year in Minnesota
My windmill lasted about 2 1/2 years. I didn't anchor it down properly when I first got it, and it fell over a few times bending the blades. During the long spring of 2008 the blades were hitting the base making a lot of noise as it was shaking apart. Finally after an especially windy night, the windmill was decapitated. I thought about buying a new 12' windmill, and decided to wait a year. I did pull the windmill up, to place a rubber-mulch tree mat around the root stock (crown). The mulch mat will help get rid of the grass and weeds growing under the windmill, and they are supposed to be great for watering. It allows water to soak through, then keeps the water down by the roots instead of evaporating. I replaced the windmill directly over the tree ring and hop ball.

My first attempt at growing hops I clipped the bines back to only one per twine to grow up. By last year I trained a few bines per twine. This year (2008) I just let nature take it's course and grow as wild as it wants to grow. They result it hop bines growing up the twine, up the metal base of the windmill, twirling and climbing up other bines. By early June the longest bine was about 4 feet past the top of the windmill. I'm trying to loop it back down so it can grow up the windmill again.

I'm expecting a bumper crop of hops this year. I plan to brew up an ale and wet-hop it. Yes, I'll have the boil going and pick hops as needed. I've read you need about 7 times the hops in weight due to the hops still having lots of water in them. Hops contain about 60% moisture when they are first picked. A few years back I had the opportunity to have a couple pints of Bert Grant's Wet Hop Ale. It wasn't the hoppiest beer, but you could taste the freshness, and it was extraordinary.

I finally decided to trim down the leaves on the first 18 inches of the hops bines to prevent fungus and other diseases from developing and to improving air circulation.

Without the windmill fan, the hops grew like crazy and didn't get chopped back by the blades.

Looks like plenty of hop flowers starting to grow (picture taken 7/20/2008).

 

By mid summer the hops had completly taken over the top of the windmill, and it resembles a bush growing on the top of it. I harvested the hops near the end of August and made a wet-hopped American Pale Ale. It sat a little long in the primary, icking up some bready yeast notes, but otherwise was very fresh and hoppy tasting without going overboard!