Hops, May 2009

Hops like to grow up to 20 feet high or higher, ideally. Normal farm growing techniques recommend running 1-2 strings from each hops plant, with 1-3 bines running up each string.

Installing a pole 20-25′ high is a huge pain in the butt, and catastrophic failure is a lot worse than with shorter trellises, so I’ve decided to try the “width instead of height” strategy. My poles are about 9′ high, but I’ve strung up 8 vertical lines. I have about 10-11 bines trained up the twine.

Last year, I only got 2 sprouts, which is typical for the first year. It seems likely I’ll get a useful amount of hops this year.

Unfortunately, I accidentally broke off the top of the strongest bine, when training it a week or so ago, so that one’s not getting any taller. Last year, when I broke off a bine, two horizontal shoots grew out of it. This year, I doubt I’ll be that lucky. The plant is putting its strength into other bines already.

These are Ultra hops. I hadn’t used this variety before I planted it. It’s a newer hybrid variety, with relatively low alpha acids, but an aroma similar to Hallertauer. I chose it because it’s hardy and produces a high yield. Hopefully I’ll enjoy the way it tastes, as well.

With home grown hops, you don’t know what the alpha acid content is unless you pay to have it measured, or experiment over the course of multiple batches. This makes them less useful for use as bittering hops, but they’re still useful for finishing.