Growing Hops

The humble beginnings of greatness

We're growing hops in our backyard this year. A local grower generously donated three rhizomes, which we have planted in pots (roughly following guidelines given in this Brew Your Own article from 2009) filled with nutrient-rich soil.

The photo above is of our nascent Centennial bine, which has grown considerably in the few days since it was taken and will eventually stretch 20-25 feet. Normally the bines grow upward, but we are going to have them climb a tomato cage as outlined in this Brew Your Own article from 2001 (thank God the Internet never forgets).

We also planted Cascade and Chinook hops. The Cascade hasn't done much yet (above ground, anyway), but the Chinook is showing signs of life. As with every other aspect of making beer, patience is key.

From everything I've read and heard, we shouldn't expect usable cones this year, as the bines root themselves and grow to full size. That doesn't keep me from hoping, of course. Who wouldn't want to wet-hop an IPA come September?

As my wife will attest, I am not the most patient person in the world (I might be in the top 5 billion on a particularly good day), but beer is trying to teach me. Very often the best course of action when brewing is to just wait and let things develop on their own. The same can be said of growing hops. Give them a good home, take good care of them, and then stay out of their way.

Easier said than done, right? Fortunately I have 24 bombers of homebrew in the fridge and a batch of Russian imperial stout fermenting in the closet, so that should keep me busy for a little while. I'll tell you about those beers some other day and get back to you on the hop-growing thing as well.

Meanwhile, pop open a cold (but not too cold!) one and enjoy. Cheers!

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