Growing Hops -- is it worth the effort?

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Growing Hops -- is it worth the effort?

Postby billvelek » Mon Jan 23, 2006 11:15 pm

This past weekend I tilled my garden and am trying to figure out what I'll plant. It's about 5,400 square feet (1/8th acre), so I have plenty of room to do whatever I want; I could expand it even more if necessary. I still have 25 gallons of watermelon juice in my freezer because I haven't had the time to make my wine yet (too many things preoccupying me). Anyway, with my family becoming smaller (6 kids moved out and only 2 left), and tiring of canning and freezing so much, and my youngest son becoming less interested in selling produce for his spending money, I've been thinking of doing something different and planting either some grape vines or hop plants, or maybe both. I've never grown either one, but I've usually done very well with gardening with other things.

I've only made a few batches of wine over the years, but have brewed quite a few batches of beer over the past 8 to 10 years, and am now doing all grain. I've been planning my dream 'HERMS' system, too, so I've been much more partial to beer than wine -- although I wouldn't mind delving much more deeply into that, as well. Of course, neither one depends upon my garden, so whatever I choose to do won't really limit my options, but inasmuch as plantings of this sort are long-term investments -- taking a few years to mature -- I'm seeking a little advice before I make that sort of commitment. I've done some research on the Internet about growing hops, but haven't found the sort of answers or advice I'm seeking. I guess what I'm looking for is something like a poll or consensus as to whether growing hops is worth the trouble. When I compare it to growing vegetables, I can easily answer that for all the trouble, our vegetables taste better than commercial produce, and save us a pile of money. Regarding hops, from what I've read the taste doesn't seem to be a factor and in fact is problematic when trying to follow a recipe because of the variation in bittering units. Storage also seems to be much more of a problem than produce. I also wonder about the amount of work that goes into growing, harvesting, drying, and storing hops; I don't mind spending lots of time picking produce, but I'm wondering about having to use a ladder to pick hops -- or is there an easier way. I guess what I'm asking is how many folks have grown their own hops, only to eventually quit because they decided that it really isn't worth the effort? I don't know ... maybe the only way to tell is to try it myself.

Finally, I haven't read anything yet about compatibility with other plants; i.e., if I plant some hop bines in my garden, should I avoid proximity with any other plants in particular?

Any info will be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

Cheers, Bill Velek
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It's a hobby, not saving money here

Postby brewmeisterintng » Wed Jan 25, 2006 7:18 am

Yes I grow my own hops. I have 5 varieties growing in the back yard and as you said, it's time consuming. There are trellis' that you can build that will allow you to lower the bine to pick but you have to be creative. Different varieties have to be grown separately and you forgot to mention insect problems. I fight Japanese beetles every year. There is satisfaction in growing them though or I wouldn't be doing it. If you
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Postby kingfisher2 » Wed Jun 28, 2006 7:34 pm

I grow my own & have brewed with them, with success. It helps if you are a hophead, that way if you over hop, its no biggie. I grow several types, Nugget seems to be the best so far here in the northeast (pa/oh). Its a bittering type & drying them after harvest is important. A commercial (large) type dehydrator is a plus... you can use the oven too (if wifey lets ya..lol ) I got my rootstock from freshops http://www.freshops.com/ If you grow alot (gardening) hops are way easy... water, sun (full is better) & lots of vertical space. Take the plunge, its easy! Cheers!!
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Growing Fuggles hops....

Postby jefflmyers » Tue Jan 30, 2007 9:18 pm

I've been growing hops for the last 4-5 years. I got some rhizomes from a brew buddy and they really took off. I harvest about 50 cups of hops "flowers" annually. I use about 1 1/2 cup of frozen hops per batch for a "normal" 5 gal. batch. I harvest them in late July and early Aug. here in the NE. Don't plant them anywhere you wouldn't plant horseradish. They are perenial, love sun, and are tough to get rid of once planted. When I harvest them I freeze them in vacuum sealed bags in the quantity I use them. It might not subtract much from from your brew bill but the satisfaction from having added a "free" ingredient to your brew is WELL worth it. Anything you can do to make your brew your own (and drinkable) is GREAT! It's a great hobby.
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Postby FrostyTheBeerman » Fri Mar 23, 2007 7:53 am

Is it worth it ? .... perhaps not, but like anything in life, it's fun to try something different.

Many of my buddies on my local brewing group grow a lot of hops, and do so more for the beautiful vines that adorn their backyards, and sides of their houses in the summer. Most of them started out with the idea of getting "free" hops to use in their brews, but gradually found out that it was a LOT of work for the end result, and the hop aromas were not as expected.

Keep in mind, you will never get the same type of hop aroma from a hop grown in your backyard as you will from that same hop grown in its own country. That is something I found out a few years ago and was very surprised by that. So growing an EKG hop plant will not give you the same EKG hop you would get coming from the U.K. -

But hey, it's a neat hobby, and worth trying out a few times.
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I just planted six rhizomes this week

Postby billvelek » Fri Mar 23, 2007 8:07 am

I never did get around to planting hops last year, but I kept the bed tilled from then until now, working in lots of mulch and compost. This week I finally got around to planting my hops -- six rhizomes (actually seven, but two were so small that I put them together in the same hill). So now we'll see how they do.

Cheers.

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RE: Planted Hops...

Postby wottaguy » Fri Mar 23, 2007 8:21 pm

Hi Bill,

What kind of hops did you end up planting? I've never tried to grow them but am getting curious of maybe doing just that. I know very little of proagating them but am trying to learn more. When will you have a harvest? Please let us know how they come out for you.

Thanks!
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Cascade

Postby billvelek » Wed Mar 28, 2007 10:44 am

Sorry for the delayed reply, but I thought I had already responded. I planted six hills with cascade rhizomes. I don't think I'm supposed to get much of a harvest the first year; I need to read up on this, but I think maybe the bines are supposed to be pruned back to strengthen the roots, or something like that. In any event, I'll be sure to keep folks posted. No sign of any bines yet, but it's been only just over a week. I don't know how fast they are supposed to sprout. We received a very heavy rain yesterday, so if I haven't been watering enough, they are definitely well watered now. Been having very warm weather here in Arkansas, reaching into the mid to high eighties. I have most of my garden planted except for just a few things. My work is usually spread out more so that I have time for other stuff, like brewing, but this year has been different.

Cheers.

Bill Velek
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