Lots of Hops

A short video trying to convey the size of our hops plants this year. Hops die down to the roots each year. They are a "bine" - using the winding of the stems to climb - as opposed to a "vine", which uses tendrils to grasp.

We rig a flag pole augmented by two-by-fours, from which a line is strung to a hub cap, and from there to a third floor window. From this horizontal line and the spokes of the hub cap, we dangle twine down from the bines to climb up. On the ground, we have three tripods made of coated steel rods. The bines climb up these (and each other) until they reach the dangling strings.

Hops are the flower of the plant. They look like pale green pine cones, but are soft. Under the scales are little sacs of yellow stuff. This is the source of the bitterness that adds flavor to beer, and it also acts as a natural preservative. When harvesting, you have to be careful not to break the sacs.

When Jon brews, he usually uses purchased hops for the wort, and uses our harvest for dry-hopping his Astral Ale, an India Pale Ale (IPA.) That could change if we get a bigger harvest!

Update August 18th: Here's a short piece from Jon this Spring about rigging the trellis, including a picture of the hop plants when they were only a foot or two tall.

4 responses
Very nice!

For years I used to get a fresh hop bine from a friend of mine in Kent. It would grace the kitchen wall wherever I was living at the time. The smell was wonderful!

Sadly, my friend died a few years ago so the tradition came to an end.

The only drawback was taking the old one down every year - as you'll know, once dead and dry the mess is awesome!

Actually, another drawback springs to mind - when fresh, the smell always made me want to go to my local pub.

Funny that... ;-)

Gary, we avoid the mess by cutting it down to harvest the hops! The emptied bines go on the compost heap where they break down astonishingly quickly. What's left (the parts on the tripods) are much easier to clean up later in the fall.

Maybe I'll have a harvesting story later...

I would advise against cutting it down to harvest the hops - the plant autoconsumes as stored energy to hibernate and extend its root system.
Job, At this point, I'm not sure I want their root system to extend any further - it's encroaching on my tomato and eggplant territory! Jesting aside, we leave the bottom 6 feet or so. We don't cut that part until it gets killed by frost. That must be the happy medium: our yield goes up every year and we don't fertilize.