Archive for Beer Hops
Homebrew– that’s what we do with our hops. Hops can be used for other purposes as well, such as
herbal treatments, hop pillows, hop tea, hop bine wreaths, privacy fences, cover for arbors, pergolas, gazebos… Hops as an herbal ingredient has relaxing qualities that can be combined with other relaxing herbs to create stress reducing teas and supplements and sleep aids. In this high stress world, who couldn’t use a little help relaxing, de-stressing and sleeping?
Stress Reducing Herbs
- Kava Kava
- St. Johns Wort
- Red Clover
- California Poppy
- Many More herbs
Back to homebrewing and the major focus of this blog, growing hops. Hops counteract the sweetness of malts (sugars) used in the making of beers and ales. That is the bitterness factor of hops. They also add aroma, clarity, head retention, anti microbial and natural preservative properties. As you can see, hops are very important to beer/ale making. Hops are one of the 4 must have ingredients of beer – hops, malt, water and yeast. German beer law – Reinheitsgebot, also known as the beer purity law or purity order, demands only water malt and hops – yeast was acquired naturally from the air or added as a sample of wort from a previous batch of beer or ale.
Variations of the amounts and types of malts, hops and yeast (and sometimes, other adjuncts), create the almost limitless styles, flavors and aromas of ales and beers. The possibilities are almost endless when it comes to making your own beers and ales. Unless you have your hops analyzed for bitterness (alpha and beta acids), you never know for sure how they will turn out. Variations in weather and nutrients can alter these properties year to year. To me, that is a good thing, something new and different each year. Like fine wine, some years will be better than others.
We grow hops to further our experience into home brewing. Saving money on growing our own hops, avoiding shortages, sharing hops with homebrewing friends are some of the benefits. As an avid gardener, I simply enjoy growing them and watching their daily growth – up to a foot a day! Hops are easy to grow. All they require is direct sunlight, water and fertile soil and something to climb (rope or twine is best). Hops are inexpensive to grow on a small scale and once established, come up every year for up to 50 years of producing hop cones!
If you make your own beer or ales or are considering it, grow some hops. Depending upon the styles of ales or beers you want to make, determines what type of hops you should grow. Basically, you want at least one bittering hop and one aroma type hop – more hop varieties are better. A basic instruction on growing hops can be found here ==> growing hops . That is why we grow beer hops – to homebrew.
Protecting Hops From Winter
Here in Bloomington Minnesota, the winter temps can reach 30 to 40 degrees below zero fahrenheit. Hops are hardy plants, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. When the ground has an insulating layer of snow, there is no issue. Where I have my hops alongside my garage, the wind can roar through and blow away that insulating snow leaving the ground unprotected from a hard freeze. I lost a Fuggle container hop this way – the wind blew away the mound of snow I had surrounding the large container. Left exposed, the Fuggle root stock hard froze and died.
I leave the hop bines up after harvest so the leaves can gather additional energy for next year’s growth. I use a pulley system to lower the bines for harvest, then raise them again. The energy is stored in the root stock also known as the crown. After a couple of hard frosts and the leaves die off. then I cut the bines off just above ground level and bury the hop mounds with compost then cover with grass cuttings and leaves from fall mowing / leaf bagging. This extra insulation has helped to keep them alive through a couple of winters so far. They come back stronger and with more hop sprouts each year.
The leaves and grass also break down with the compost and supply some organic fertilizer for the hops. After my run in with a boron deficiency this year that almost killed my Magnum hops, I have and am going to supplement the soil with kelp and other organic mineral and trace mineral supplements to prevent any deficiency conditions. I also noticed that when I sprayed the hops bines with an iron and boron spray, the leaves became huge – up to 10 inches across! Apparently they have been deficient since day one even though I have had decent harvests.
If you live in a cold winter area, it wouldn’t hurt to do this your hops as extra insurance. Who knows, it may help keep a critter from digging up your hops root stock. The added nutrients will help too. That’s about it for this year’s growing hops updates. Unless of course my award winning hops win another home brewing competition – you’ll hear about it then!
May 29th the Magnum hops reached the top of their rope (15 feet tall). The cascade and Nugget hop bines reached the top of their ropes May 21st (13 feet tall). I predicted by June 1st this would happen and apparently nailed that guess.
This is the second year for these hops. The first year is fun to watch how fast the hop bines grow, but that’s nothing compared to the second year. The first year a lot of the hop plants energy goes into establishing the root stock also known as the crown. By the second year, the crown is established and the sprouts come up earlier than if you planted hop rhizomes.
My hop sprouts survived a few frosts where tomatoes would have surely died. Hops are hardy once established. I lost a Mt. Hood hop plant I had planted in a container this spring. We had some 50 mph winds and it snapped them right off – the rhizome apparently couldn’t handle it – no more hop shoots / sprouts replaced them. They probably would have survived if I had them trained on a rope. They were about a foot long and I had not yet decided where to trellis them.