Home Grown Hops Harvest 2014

Year 5 of growing hops has proved to be a banner year for the harvest. My brother and I have finally have a yield that measures up to the ones I have read about online.

It didn’t start out that way. The death of my Cascade hops plant was a big setback, but we didn’t give up. The weather was great this summer and our experience helped to turn it around.

Magnum Hops Recap

This year was an experimental year for the Magnum hops. The first change going into this growing season was the elimination of the big tree that was near the plant and was used for the hops to climb up to their full height of 18 feet. Earlier, I wrote about the temporary trellis that I built for it, which worked ok but can be improved for next year.

The other change was my deliberate cutting back of the first shoots of the spring and allowing only 16 bines to grow to maturity. I have seen instructions on paper and online that say to cut the plant back. I don’t think I will do that again. Letting the plant grow as much as possible seems to work better than cutting it back. Now that I have tried both methods, I know what works.

I will probably get a couple of ounces from the Magnum plant. I am fine with that since they are a bittering hop and I don’t need that much to make a nice harvest ale. Next year will be a different story with an improved trellis and a live and let live strategy.

Mt. Hood Hops Recap

So this is the plant to brag about. My brother and I spent 2 hours picking cones last Saturday and I think we only harvested a third of them.

Take a look at the monster:

Hops Bines 2014

My brother watered this plant every other day for fifteen minutes. He had a soaker hose attached to a timer. People told me not to water hops plants that much. I have to say that is a silly notion. Every other day works excellently. He let all the bines reach maturity and most of them produced cones.

One of the cones was huge. Look how big it is in my hand:

Huge Hop Cone

Again, we didn’t harvest them all in one afternoon. The paper bag that I brought over to collect the cones was halfway filled when I left. Spread out on a screen to dry, this is what they looked like:

Hop Cones Drying

Ok – so you too can grow hops at home. Find a sunny spot in your yard and keep these three thing in mind.

1. Let them grow. Don’t cut them back.
2. Water them every other day.
3. Give them enough rope to climb.

Believe me, you can do it too.

I hope to have a great harvest ale brewing in the next month or two.

Kohatu Hops

If you are researching new hop varieties like me, you have come to the right place.  For the past seven years, I have been writing up hop profiles for all the varieties that interest me.

Mostly, I was unhappy with the descriptions I found online and offline.   They were short, vague, and redundant across different websites.

What I try to do is to collect as much information as I can and present as much as a well-rounded profile post as I can.

I like the new hops that have been released lately, especially the ones that are influenced by the American craft beer movement over the past 20 years.

The hops of Australia and New Zealand have most of my attention lately.  There is a large collection of these hops in my basement fridge currently and I do have plans for a Down Under IPA.  This variety is another one that is worth a full investigation.  Here is my profile of Kohatu hops.

One of the things I did find out is that these hops have Hallertauer Mittelfrüeh as a parent. I think this fact plays into a few factors with the hops’ potency.

Read more about the details of Kohatu hops:

Origin:  Named after a tiny village south of the hop-growing region of Nelson in New Zealand (not to be confused with the village of the same name in Estonia).  It also  may take its name from the Maori word meaning stone or rock. They were bred in New Zealand  and were released commercially in 2011.  They are a product of the NZ hop breeding programme.

Aroma/Flavor: Pineapple is the leading descriptor mentioned in all the sources that I read.  One went so far to state “sweaty pineapple pants”.  Pine needles, lime, and classic Hawaiian Punch flavors.

Alpha Acid: 6.0 – 6.8%

Typical Usage: With the low alpha acids, Kohatu hops are an flavor or aroma hop, added later in the boil.  The sources I read concluded that they were not as strong as the other Southern Hemisphere hops so using lots of them in your beer would not be a bad thing.

Beer Styles: Any beer that you want to showcase fruity, tropical flavors.

So the Hallertauer hop parent makes me think that this variety is a little more refined and subtle than the other Down Under hops like Nelson Sauvin or Motueka.  Kohatu may be hops to purchase if you are looking for something to try out but you are not ready for the over the top flavors of the other AU or NZ hops.

Equinox Hops

I have known about Equinox hops for a while now but they had a different name when I first read about them. The Hop Breeding Company developed the variety and before they branded it, it was known as HBC 366.  Now that they have a name and they are being sold at my local homebrew shop, I thought it made sense to write up a profile.

These hops have been hyped a bit for a year or so.  Again, it felt weird to me to post something that didn’t have its commercial name. Some breweries have brewed with them. There’s Brooklyn Brewery summer ale that is available now that uses these hops exclusively. You can surely try them out in that beer. As for me, I just order 4 ounces of Equinox hops so I can brew more fruity ales this year.

Read more about this special hop variety.

Origin: USA – a collaboration between Select Botanicals Group LLC and the John I Hass company. Originally planted in Toppenish, Washington State.

Aroma/Flavor: Lots of descriptors – lemon, lime, papayas, apples, cherries, mango, green pepper, citrus, pine.

Alpha Acid: 14.4 – 15.6%

Typical Usage: As of right now, these are definitely an aroma hop. I plan to use them in late boil additions and for dry hopping to get to know them. They do have a high alpha acid percentage so maybe you can use them in the bittering charge as well.

Beer Styles: IPAs, American ales, a modern interpretation of a pilsner

Equinox hops are a daughter of the Warrior variety. For my beer, I would bitter with the parent and have multiple additions of the child. With four ounces, I am pretty sure I can put together a simple pale ale with some clean bitterness to build that fruity hop flavor and aroma on top.

With a hop this complex, my mind starts to wander and it thinks about how it would taste in a braggot or an experimental mead (remind me to write up something about the new BJCP guidelines). Imagine a medium mead with a bit of honey sweetness at the forefront and the complex hop flavor of Equinox in the finish. It could be something someday.

Quick and Simple Home Hops Trellis Design

With little time and money, I put together this quick and simple hops trellis. It’s not much of a trellis as it is a pole with some string running through the top of it, but I needed a new solution. The tree that I used to hang strings over is now gone. Now, I have a new tall object for my hop bines to climb up.

For less that 20 bucks, I bought four 1x2x8′ furring strips that I combined together to make a strong base and extend the height of the strips by nearly double.

The strips were fastened by wood screws and I drilled a hole in the top of the pole through which I ran strings. In less than a half hour, this home hops trellis was up and ready.

I positioned the pole on the side of my shed where the tree once was.

Home hops trellis

Where it resides today is not permanent. Next year, I would like to place it on the opposite side of my shed from where the hop bines grow. For that placement, I will need to get the height of the pole to around 20 feet.

To increase the height, I would add to the base and make it five boards wide to steady it using the same 8 foot tall furring strips. Following the same method I used to make this version of the pole, it should be easy to get the final height that I need.

Then, I will secure it in the ground and paint it white so it matches the shed. At least, I think that will be the best solution.

Here’s another shot of the pole from side of the shed where the hops are growing out of the ground.

Another angle of the home hops trellis

Right now, I have about 15 feet in height and another 8 feet in length from the top of the shed to the top of the pole. I believe I will have enough string for the hops to climb up and be happy. Again, when I have more time, I will be able to raise the height and have a permanent solution for this hop plant for the rest of its life. I am hoping it will have a long life. One last shot of the construction of this simple hops trellis.

Close up of the hops trellis construction

Brew on!

Homegrown Cascade Hops Are DOA

Year three is supposed to be the year for any hop plant that you grow at home, if you believe the literature that they send to you along with the rhizomes.

Somebody must have sold my Cascade plant a different path because this year, on its third anniversary of being planted in my yard, it has decided to not make an appearance.

DOA Cascade Hop Plant

The photo above shows the sad scene. Do you remember the good old days when I had a strong hop season and harvest? Two strings await the hop bines to start climbing them but there are no plants around to take the trip. It’s just a mound of dirt.

Well, that’s not entirely true. Let’s back up a bit. There is some information I am withholding that may shed some light on why the bines are not sprout up this year or for any year in the future.

Right after the snow melted away and the bare ground was exposed, I would check on the plant to see if there was any growth. One morning, I think in late February, I took a look at my little plot to find that something had dug into the earth and had exposed a good amount of the hops roots(?). I believe my friendly neighborhood skunk had dug in looking for grubs and tore up some of my about-to-sprout hop plant. I buried it back up as quickly as I could, hoping that the damage wasn’t too bad.

A few weeks later, a few shoots started to come up and I thought we were in the clear. I nurtured them as best I could but then they disappeared or more truthfully, they dried up and died.

So, I am at a loss. Have we seen the last of this Cascade hop plant?

I guess I will wait it out until the end of this season and dig it up for a new rhizome to plant next year. It’s a real shame.

I will definitely protect the plant from grub-hungry skunks next time.

All is not lost for my hop growing at home. My Magnum hop is still rocking but I still need to figure out a new trellis for it.