Growing Hops in Iowa

Tying Up Hop Strings
Tying Up Hop Strings

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?

Brewed Saison Update

A week ago, I spoke about brewing a saison.  The temperature fluctuated a bit, but stayed around the 75-85 degree range.  After about 3 days, the fermentation process appeared to stop, but I recalled from Farmhouse Ales that there may be a chance the process wasn’t yet done.

5 days later (8 days total), in the morning, I heard the airlock start bubbling again.  I’m going to let it continue for another week or two before transferring the beer to a keg.

Brewing a Saison

Today I brewed my first Saison.  I usually use White Labs yeast, but in this case, I salvaged the yeast from the bottom of 2 Boulevard Smokestack Series Saisons.  I plan to crank the heat up on this one, to 75 for a couple of days, then to even 80.  I read from Phil Markowski in Farmhouse Ales that brewing a Saison is not like any other type – particularly in the temperature department.  It is kind of neat because in the old days, the farmers would have their own house yeasts, and sometimes swap with neighbors to “liven up” the little buggers.

Not that this is the same, but borrowing some friends from Boulevard kind of makes me feel the same way.

What’s your experience “harvesting” yeast?  Has it worked out for you?