It’s about that time of year again, when the snow melts, and the growing season begins. If you have home brewed for a while, you may ask yourself, “What’s the next step?”
The easy answer is growing your own hops! Hops are a hearty plant that thrive between the 30th and 50th parallels, which is roughly between the panhandle of Florida and just north of the great lakes. Anywhere in this area can do well growing hops.
In the past, hops have been grown in several US regions. Originally, many of the hop fields were in New York until several diseases ruined the crops. The hop growing then continued west, occurring in Wisconsin and other Midwestern states, until several different diseases destroyed the crops in the Midwest. Now, most of the hops grown in the US are in the states of Oregon and Washington, although many areas can support hop growing. In fact, one Iowa farmer has grown hops outside the town of Oxford.
Hops are perennial plants, and usually take at least a year to develop and produce hop cones, the parts used in beer-making. For example, last year I planted three types of hop rhizomes: Goldings, Tettenanger, and Willamette. By the end of the growing season, despite my anticipation, I did not harvest a single hop cone. Because it usually takes a year to establish, I have high hopes for this year. In addition to these three types, this year I also plan on planting Cascade and Hallertau types of hops for the first time. The description of each of these types of hops can be found on the home brew wiki.
In a future installment, I will describe what needs to be done to grow hops.
Have you tried to grow hops? What’s your experience?