DIY Hops - How to Grow and Use Them
by Bizier on 05-25-2009 at 08:53 am
Added "Your Region" section
HOPS - HOW TO GROW THEM
The Utter Basics
Storing, Planting & Spacing Rhizomes
Fertiliser & Nutrients
Training & Pruning
Pests & Diseases
Drying & Storing
Using Homegrown Hops Dry
Using Homegrown Hops Wet
Propagation by Cuttings
Propagation by Layering
Choosing Cultivars (varieties)
THE UTTER BASICS
Hops are basically a weed, and you will be almost guaranteed success if you can give them lots of the following things:
Half decent soil
Some complete fertiliser will also help.
Vinnie Cilurzo on The Brewing Network:
"You can buy a bag of potting soil at the gardening centre, dig a hole, put the hop rhizomes in, you cover it with about an inch of potting soil and give it a little Miracle Grow, and continue to water it, and you are going to get results. Hops are one of the most prolific plants on the earth"
Hops preference for long daylight hours and cool winters mean that they grow best between latitudes of 35 and 55 degrees in either hemisphere of the globe. They ideally want 15-18 hours sunlight per day in spring and summer.
Here is a resource to find your latitude in Australia, e.g. I live in Sydney, which is 33°53'S, just within this range.
Because hops want long daylight hours, grow them in a position with the absolute maximum amount of sunlight contact per day. This means an open area that gets little or no shade, with light from all angles. Hops also benefit from dry air movement.
If you are renting, or you think that there is a chance that you might not want hop plants in the future, plant in containers, as the plants might prove problematic to remove.
If you are closer to the equator than 35 degrees, you can definitely still grow hops, though your bines will probably yield less. You might consider two things to trick your hops into believing they are in a more approproate location. The first is to artificially 'vernalise' your rhizomes by carefully digging them from the ground and refrigerating them over winter period. The second is to artificially light the plants for a few hours once it is dark. I do not know a great deal bout this, but believe that this doesn't have to be strong light, just enough to trick the plant, I'd consider LEDs for the high light : power consumption ratio.
Australian Capital Territory
New South Wales
Greater Sydney Area: able to successfully grow hops in well lit position. Sunburn of flowers and foliage becomes a problem around time of harvest, reduce watering and fertiliser usage prior to this time to 'toughen' up plant material a little.
Victoria (and Tasmania) are ideal locations for growing hops within Australia and (with adequate care and consideration) most every hop variety should grow well. There are large commercial hop plantations in the north of the state (Wangaratta-Bright), as it's name suggests the Pride of Ringwood hop variety was bred in the suburbs of Melbourne.
Hops prefer a well drained, deep, fertile soil with a pH between 6 & 7.5 (close to neutral).
If planting in the ground, dig as large a hole as you can manage and fill back with a mix of removed soil and composted organic material such as cow manure or peat moss. Build a small mound above the ground to aid in drainage. Keeping a layer of mulch over the soil surface year round will help. Each year, add more organic material to the mound. Add mulch before winter, and again later before summer. The mound and organic material is especially important for clay soil, and if that is the case, some sand to aid drainage.
If growing in pots or containers, use the absolute largest you can manage. Hops will utilise the entire space, and will try to throw tap roots around 1m deep. The roots may also penetrate soil under the pot if there is nothing to prevent it consider this if you do not want permanent hops. Ensure you use a good soil mixture with plenty of organic material, and consider using water saving crystals to maximise water available to the roots over the dry months. They are perennial and will get larger every year, so consider dividing after a few years in containers. In areas with very cold winters, you might consider moving the containers to an area that is sheltered from deep frost.
STORING PLANTING & SPACING RHIZOMES
The small white shoots coming from eyelets are going to become your bines. They are very fragile, so treat them carefully.
Plant in the ground after the last frost and large rain of winter to avoid freezing or rotting damage to the rhizome.
You can plant them in a smallish intermediate pot, to keep it protected from frosts, and to give them a little head start.
To store rhizomes, keep in the refrigerator crisper in a plastic bag with a damp cloth or sponge. Ensure they have accest to some moisture, but are not wet. They will become slightly wrinkled and mouldy over time just like a ginger rhizome, this is because the rhizome is depending on its reserves to keep alive. If you have to store for a few moths, you are probably best planting in an intermediate pot.
Plant rhizomes 3-5cm below surface of soil. If the rhizome has white round-ended shoots, position it so that these point upward. Roots should be tapered and more woody, and these should point either down or horizontal. If the rhizome has neither roots or shoots, plant it horizontally under soil so that some nodes are positioned upward and some downward.
Space rhizomes of same cultivar a minimum of 30cm apart, preferably further, this can be done on a single large mound. Commercial growers plant multiple rhizomes in the same hole, but this is basically insurance (and as Bill Valek has suggested, possibly motivated my retailers.) A homebrewer should be able to give sufficient attention any bines that are slow to take off.
As hop roots travel underground and throw shoots long distances away from where they are planted, space different cultivars at least 1-2m apart, preferably further. This is to avoid confusion between cultivars, as they grow horizontally and can throw shoots significant distances away from the planting site.
Hops will benefit from a lot of water.
When bines are in their first year, keep watering to more frequent, but smaller doses. Once they are established, water deeply.
Water especially well when flowers start, this is using a lot of energy from the plant, and will need to be replenished.
If you can, use drip irrigation, it uses a lot less water, is easy, and can be automated. Do not use sprinklers, as wet foliage aids fungal and disease growth.
FERTILISER & NUTRIENTS
Used starsan and yeast trub are alledgedly good hop nutrients. Tipping wort or finished beer on your hop garden may drop the pH too low, but might be good if you are in an area with high pH soil; so use with caution or not at all.
If you have a dog or other animal that may dig up your hops, consider not using potentially attractive fertilisers such as "blood & bone" and "dynamic lifter".
The type and balance of available nutrients will affect the flavour profile of the hops.
High alpha and pungent hops (e.g. Columbus) require more fertiliser to push these characters.
TRAINING, PRUNING & TRIMMING BINES
If bines shoot too early after a warm winter, all may be pruned back to delay early flowering.
While there is some debate, I (Bizier) am an advocate of keeping all bines, at least in the first three years, and having more strings available per plant, I use seven. This is to maximise the amount of photosynthesis and general plant matter, and should result in both larger yields and rhizomes.
Ralph Olson from Hop Union advises that trimming back to the strongest couple of bines is only relevant to industrial operations where commercial picking machines cannot access the hop cones through large masses of vegetation, and keeps a large plantation of bines manageable and regular.
In a home garden situation, or where they will be hand picked, training each bine onto a separate string should result in a larger yield.
Cilurzo advises to treat hops as a long term project like planting a vineyard. He reccomends the following trimming schedule to focus the first few years of growth into rhizome development. I do not necessarily agree, but I know he is successful.
Year one, one bine per plant.
Year two, two bines per plant.
Year three, three bines per plant.
In summer, trim the bottom 60-100cm of foliage and lateral branches in summer. This helps stop fungal diseases being transferred from ground to upper plant by allowing sunlight and circulation of dry air around the bottom of the bine. It also hinders insects from accessing the upper areas of the plant.
Wait for the tops to fully die back before removing bines. Nutrients and sap is being drawn back into the rhizome for storage.
Your Hop trellis can be anything 6' or above that you can hang a string from. That said, they will want to climb considerably higher than that, and can grow to seven meters. If you provide the extra hight for them to grow, they will undoubtedly yield more at harvest time. A common trick to gaining extra length is to run strings diagonally up to the top of a vertical pole located a distance away from the hop plant. The plants will want to grow vertical, but will happily grow diagonally to a certain extent. A problem I can see arising if the whole setup is not very large is that if different varieties are grown around a common pole, they might intertwine at the top and confuse things.
If you can make a trellis that can be lowered it is quite benificial. You can do multiple harvestings as cone ripening continues through the plant, it is also much safer not to be extending yourself high on a ladder with soft ground underneath.
This Basic Brewing Video shows Chris Colby (BYO mag editor) demonstrating the use of a pulley to extend the vertical growth of a hop bine by incrementally lowering it over time.
Use rough twine e.g. sisal or synthetic baling twine for training bines because it is easy for the plant to grip.
Illustration showing a few ideas for trellis designs.
Here is a photo of my first year cluster nearing harvest on a 4.2m high 'T' trellis, these are shackled to existing 6' fence posts and can be lowered for harvesting or inspection. A noticeable issue with having a good horizontal bar way up in the air is the fact that birds will absolutely love you for the new perch and will undoubtably defecate on your hops. This is something that I will need to resolve. I used seven lengths of synthetic baling twine per plant.
PESTS & DISEASES
If you are in a hop growing region, diseases like downy/powdery mildew are more likely to be a problem. Unsure if relative to Australia. If affected, remove infected parts of plant and destroy by burning.
Mold & Mildew
Someone once posted here the mix of 1 part vinegar to 9 parts water to solve mold and mildew issues and I tried it and it worked. I just mixed it up in a soft drink bottle and poured it into the base of the plant root ball.
Spraying soap solution or Starsan may be used for aphids (perhaps also spider mites?)
Harvest window is about two weeks around early march, but cultivars ripen differently and climate may also affect ripening.
Cilurzo's methods on determining hop ripeness:
Pull off a bract (leafy 'petal'), hold it up to the light and it should be a darker green rather than a light translucent green.
The hop should be sticky with lupulin (yellow pollen) and have a pungent positive musty hop aroma.
Tear a flower in half lengthways and lupulin should be starting to bind together and lupulin balls should be around the size of the tip of a ballpoint pen.
This is his preferred method: Take a hop cone by the pointy end and brush the bracts against their natural direction:
If one or none bracts come off, the hops are not ripe.
If you do it a few times and a few bracts fall off, this is perfect for using in a wet hop beer.
If all bracts fall off the first time, this is considered to be ripe for commercial purpose.
I questioned Mr Cilurzo's reason for chosing earlier harvested hops wet and recieved this (logical) response:
"I just like the flavor of the under ripe hops in a wet hop beer, it tends to leave a greener note in the beer."
When picking, wear a long sleeved shirt (even though it is summer) and gloves. Hops are extremely scratchy and have tiny hooks that can break off and irritate your skin, you have been warned. Hop bine scratches are reasonably painful and leave long lasting red marks.
Cop cones mature from the top of the bine first. Ripe cones feel papery, have accentuated pungency, they are lighter and may have browning on the tops of the cone.
To pick, simply pull cones from bine with hands.
I am unsure of typical yields, especially from established plants, but I harvested around 1kg wet from each of my first year hop plants.
DRYING & STORING
Drying hops prevents spoilage. Commercial hops are kilned at a temperature of 35-60 degrees celcius until their moisture content it below 10% of their whole weight. They are over-dried and a controlled amount of moisture is added back to aid handling and prevent them shattering.
If you are drying hops at home, dry in the dark with air movement and low humidity, aiming for over dry. Heating evaporates essential oils from the hop, so if you can dry at a lower temperature, the hops will retain more oils.
Ideally flush with nitrogen, vacuum seal and freeze for best preservation of brewing properties.
Use flyscreens from your house windows and dry in a warm area of the house.
Make a simple oast (hop dryer):
Many homebrewers suggest this method. Get a chest of drawers and replace the drawer bases with flyscreen. Leave the top drawer slightly open. Take out the bottom drawer and use a fan heater on low to circulate warm air into the unit.
If I wanted dried hops, I would try to build something from a large cardboard box with a computer fan mounted near the base, circulating cool dry air to preserve the aromatics. You would still need to make mesh shelves. I have never heard of it, but you may be able to utilise a dessicant such as silica.
Some people advocate drying in the sun, others do not. I would suggest sticking to drying your hops in the dark, as light has a habit of degrading most things.
I personally weigh mine into 200g amounts, vacuum seal with a foodsaver, and freeze until use. Whether you are storing you hops dry or wet, a vacuum sealing unit will be your best friend because it drastically decreases the amount of space your hops will take up. I use the unit on the floor and place a phone book on top of the hops, and kneel with my entire weight on the phone book as the unit is vacuuming the air out. This keeps them relatively flat like a book, and will minimise the amount of space they take in the freezer. If you do not do this, they will form random shapes that are less efficient to store.
USING HOMEGROWN HOPS DRY
Homegrown hops have an unknown alpha acid level, and most homebrewers do not have access to lab facilities to measure it. Therefore homegrown hops are mostly used for aroma and flavouring additions in brewing, while bittering with a commercial hop to preserve the balance of the beer.
To estimate the IBUs, you can either use an average alpha acid percentage for the cultivar, or you can more accurately guess it by doing a tea titration experiment.
USING HOMEGROWN HOPS WET
Use the hops less than 24hrs from bine to boil because of mould problems. Keep them reasonably well ventilated and in paper if possible, the can mould in a few hours in a plastic bag.
Flavour contributions of wet hops in a beer:
Boiling wet hops extracts higher levels of tannins, this is par for the course.
Grassiness in the finished beer may age out after a few weeks.
Different aromatics will come forward and be more pronounced, as the more volatile components have not been kilned off. Vinnie Cilurzo describes flavours and aromas of melon, lemon zest, and mint.
Normal hops are 10-12% moisture, and wet hops are about 50-80% moisture. So you are effectively 50-80% of your hop additions will be just water. Cilurzo says to use six times the amount of regular hops, with the note that you cannot add too many wet hops to a beer.
Colin Kaminsky's method of calculating rough quantity of wet hops to use:
1.Record the weight of a decent amount of wet hops (the more the better).
2.Dry this amount in a low oven oven until completely dry (the weight won't get any lower).
3.Divide the wet weight by the dry weight and round the result to a whole number.
4.Use the resulting number to multiply a normal addition by, using a guessed average alpha acid content for the cultivar.
Vinnie Cilurzo's Wet Hop Beer Recipe:
Grist (unspecified ratios):
Carapils (dextrine malt)
Hops (NB QTYs are for 10 gallons):
90 mins 3oz Chinook
90 mins 14oz Cascade
30 mins 10oz Cascade
0 mins 5oz Chinook
0 mins 11oz Cascade
Dry Hop 2oz Chinook
Dry Hop 2oz Cascade
DIVIDING & STORING RHIZOMES
Mature hop plants have an extensive root system that can be as deep as 2.5m, when the plant goes dormant each winter, they may also produce rhizomes. Unlike the plant's roots - which tend to be slender, woody and usually grow down into the ground, rhizomes are generally thick, fat, and have buds at regular intervals. Rhizomes will generally grow just under the soil surface and can extend several meters away from the plant's root ball. In commercial situations cultivating the soil around the base of the hop plant is usually sufficient to chop up the rhizome and is often used to prevent the plant from spreading too much.
Propagating and growing a new hop plant is most commonly achieved by splitting rhizome(s) from a larger parent plant. This is especially important for hop plants because it results in a clone of the parent plant (which would not be the case if the plants were propagated from seed), so the new plant grown from a rhizome cutting will be also be a female plant of the same variety as it's parent.
Rhizome cuttings are generally taken when the plant is dormant in winter, and the process is as simple as locating the rhizome(s) (not all plants will produce rhizomes that can be split every year) and then dividing or cutting the rhizome(s) into smaller segments. The rhizome will look similar to the hop plant's roots but it will generally be thicker and fatter, grow horizontally just below the surface and most importantly it will always have a number of buds along it's length. Often the rhizome can be cut into a number of smaller segments, however you must make sure that each section has enough buds to ensure successful growth, the larger the rhizome segment and the more buds it has will generally result in better growth for the first year of growth for the new plant.
The most basic method for propagating your plant via rhizomes is to dig the entire plant out of the ground, identify and cut the rhizomes and then replant the rootball and rhizomes separately. However in a home-garden situation, digging the entire plant out of the ground each year is difficult and can have an adverse effect on the plant's growth next season. Instead - especially if the hop plant has been well mulched - carefully dig the soil around the plant and try to identify if it has sent out any rhizomes - they will almost appear to be runners under the ground - carefully dig up the rhizome leaving the rootball intact and then divide the rhizome up into smaller cuttings if you wish.
As mentioned above the best way to 'store' the hop plant is in the ground undisturbed each year, however if you have taken rhizome cuttings or recently acquired new rhizomes, they should be kept most (but not wet) and cool. The rhizome is usually stored in a moist inert medium, such as peat moss, aged sawdust or the like, damp newspaper can also be used as a temporary measure if nothing else is available. If the rhizome cannot be planted in the ground immediately, it is possible to plant it into a pot or store the rhizome in an air-tight container or bag in the fridge until spring. If the rhizomes are being stored for a length of time, they should be checked every now and then to ensure they are not too wet, too dry, start to rot or grow mold.
PROPAGATING RHIZOMES BY CUTTINGS
To take cuttings the equipment you will need is:
Clean sharp cutter
Rooting hormone ( preferably a gel for semi hardwood)
Seed raising potting mix
And a mini greenhouse like this
Fill the tray in the greenhouse with the seed raising mix, will a stick poke a hole down into the mix for each cutting you want to take.
Lay out your equipment near where you are going to take the cuttings, select the bines that your going to use to take the cuttings from. Make the cuts on an angle as shown below as soon as you can dip the cut end in the rooting hormone, make the cut above and put the cutting in the hole you made in the seed raising mix. Make as many cuttings as you can from that bine, the best size leafs are about 2 to 3 cm long if the leafs on the cutting are bigger than this then you can cut a bit of the leaf off to reduce the amount of moisture lost by the cutting.
You have to make sure that the cutting has buds on it like the one shown in the picture above because that is where the new growth will come from. After you have taken the cutting and put them in the holes that you have made gently pat down the soil around the cuttings.
Give them a good watering leaving about 1cm of water in the bottom of the tray. Place the lid on the mini greenhouse and put it near a window that will get a bit of sun, a northern facing window is the best. With the spray bottle spray the leafs with water regularly so that the cuttings don't dry out. The cutting doesn't have roots at the moment so the only way for it to get water is thru the leafs or the cut so keep it fairly wet.
After about two weeks you should be able to see roots coming thru the bottom of the planter tray, at this time the plant can be moved outside in a shaded area. In about another week you should the buds starting to grow, that is where the new bines will grow from.
PROPAGATING RHIZOMES BY LAYERING
Freshops: At the end of the season you can bury healthy bottom vines for propagating new plants the next spring. Simply bury the vines in a shallow trench and mark their location. In spring dig them up and cut them into pieces about 4 inches long. Make sure each new cutting has an eye or bud.
Basically any decently thick section of a growing bine will develop into a rhizome if it is buried under soil.
Hops can also be layered during the growing season. At points where the hop plant comes in contact with dirt/soil it will sprout roots instead of leaves, bines can be removed from the trellis and buried in soil (or poked into pots), then once the root system has sufficiently developed it can then be cut from the main plant. Care must be taken when growing the new plants since they (most likely) will not have developed the usual root/rhizome system, so it may take an extra season for the new plant to fully develop.
CHOOSING CULTIVARS (varieties)
Low alpha acid aroma cultivars are generally more sensitive to heat eg. German noble cultivars, or Willamette. High alpha acid cultivars such as those used for bittering, and more modern American cultivars perform better in heat. These are commercially grown in areas that experience temperatures up to 38 degrees celsius.
The ultimate strategy is to plant as many as you can acquire and see what yields the best results in your area.
NB Produce from homegrown hops will not provide identical results to commercial pellets or flowers. Hallertau grown in Australia or the USA will not taste like the same cultivar from the traditional Hallertau region of Germany. American hop breeders have produced cultivars such as Liberty and Mt Hood in efforts to emulate the noble hop characters in domestically grown products.
Cascade, Chinook, Nugget and Willamette are good cultivars if you are unsure of success in your location, as they are particularly prolific and hardy cultivars. Pride of Ringwood is vigourous and proven to grow well in Australian climates. I have also experienced good results from Cluster (the one that is readily available in Aus) both with the aroma properties and voracious growth.
Aroma (noble & low AA%) cultivars perform better in clay soil with lower temperatures and higher humidity, these should ultimately grow slower and appear thinner and wispier.
Hop varieties known to be available in Australia (as of July 2010)
Australian varieties: Pride of Ringwood, Super Pride, Victoria, Cluster, Super Alpha
UK varieties (or clones): Golding, Fuggle, Willamette, Northdown, Challenger, Target
EU varieties (or clones): Hallartau, Hersbrucker, Mt Hood, Liberty, Tettnang, Wuertumberger, Saaz, Perle, Nugget, Tardiff de bourgogne,
US varieties: Cascade, Columbus, Chinook, Millenium
What you are looking for is the greatest number of nodes (like the eyes of a potato) on the rhizome. Each node will form a shoot, so more nodes means more shoots.
Grow-Hops Yahoo Group Wiki on Growing Hops
Bill Velek on Growing Conditions
Freshops on problems with nutrients and diseases
Common names of hop diseases
Article on the 2008 hop shortage
Small Scale & Organic Hops Production
A lot of technical information regarding nutients
Hop Union Cultivar booklet
Wikipedia list of cultivars
USDA Hop Cultivar Descriptions
A Great PDF Article on Commercial Hop Fertilising
Good Info On Companion Planting
Great Overview of Hops and Usage
The Brewing Network:
Vinnie Cilurzo from Russian River Brewing Co.
Ralph Olson from Hop Union
Colin Kaminski talks about wet hopped beer
Ali Hamm on organic hops
Basic Brewing Radio:
Growing Hops at Home
Homegrown Hops Revisited
Container Hops Revisited
A museum site for Kentish hops (children focus)