Ordering Hop Rhizomes was the moon to me. Gardening is not my foray, my green thumb is novice at best. Hops are hardy plants though right? Strong growing vines with a medium to high yield.
So I read, researched, and scoured the internet for information. I learned a few things, Hops grow from root stock. They grow vigorously and yield well in their 3rd year. This post is going to run through my process and decision making from having cash in my pocket to having roots in the ground.
(read more after the break.)
Last fall I made a fresh hopped DIPA and loved that fresh hop flavor. Getting fresh hops was kind of a pain in the ass though. I went to Grand Rapids, MI to a special sale at Sicilianos. There was one person there to service a short line of people, no one really knew the prices, and the whole thing was very crowded. The people were nice though, very encouraging, and it ended up being a great beer. Making a great beer is like hitting a great golf shot, it just keeps you coming back to the challenge. When I was drinking my fresh hopped DIPA I couldn't help but think, I wish I could make a fresh hopped California Red, or I wonder what a fresh hopped American Pilsner would taste like, or, or, or....
To get started I went through my usual process, check the home brew sites, check Google, and ask at the local home brew store. Zymurgy has a great article that covers everything I think I'll need to start growing my own hops.
I started by selecting a store. The Thyme Garden appealed to me because they sold rhizomes which had been potted in the previous year and let grow for a year before being dug up. My thinking is that with a more mature set of roots I'll get heartier bines. Hop bines grow for 25 to 50 years depending on the strength of the roots and the variety. This one time investment could yield hops that go into years of home brews, but I'm getting ahead of myself. I selected four varieties to purchase based on the ones I used most last year. Centennial and Cascade are very common in IPAs and were the hops I used in my DIPA. If these two vines flourish I'll have a great opportunity to re-brew my Fresh Hop DIPA for years to come. Most of my belgian brews, and saisons were made with czech saaz hops last year. The light earthen flavors of flowers and spices that come from this breed are perfect in a variety of styles. A hop I'd like to use more is Nugget; after trying a bottle of Nugget Nectar from Troegs brewery I decided that I liked the flavors and smooth bitterness of this hop variety. I've used it in a few beers thus far for that smooth bitterness and hope to feature it more going forward.
I preordered some organic rhizomes in january that arrived in mid march. They were shipped in plastic bags as in the pictures above. The weather here was unseasonably warm in early spring so Sarah planted my hops in pots outside and shortly afterwards they began to sprout cute little bines. She was nice enough to take delivery of the rhizomes for me and tend to them because my small space isn't nearly big enough for a single 20 foot bine. The weather has taken a cold snap in south west Michigan over the past week or so, just in time for the end of tax season so the growth of the bines hasn't been as vigorous as I had hoped.
Side note: Hops are a bine. I thought it was a typo at first until I looked into the differences. A vine uses tendrils and adhesive pads to climb. A bine grows in a helix shape around a central support using hairs or rough bark to grasp onto a structure.
In the four weeks since they were planted they have grown very well. I am excited that they are doing as well as they are. I'll follow this post up with a post on what I set up to trelliss them and then again at the end of the season with what my yield was. This is an exciting addition to this whole project for me, and I hope for you too.