Monday, 12 June 2017

Hops in the Garden

I am now growing hops in my garden. This is with the goal of eventually making beer directly from the four basic ingredients (water, barley, hops, and yeast), using fresh hops grown in my own garden.

The inspiration for this goal comes from a few places. It started with the 2014 book "The Perfect Keg" by Ian Coutts. This is a fun Canadian work of non-fiction in which the author documents his attempts to grow his own barley in order to make beer from scratch, at the same time learning various brewing tricks from master brewers. It's a fun read. Coutt's desire to start from scratch is something that I understand, and kudos to him for pursuing that.

For some time now, I have enjoyed a range of YouTube videos on home brewing. These have fired up my interest in all-grain brewing (i.e. starting from barley itself). At some point, I will post links to some of the more interesting videos I have seen.

In early May, my wife and I attended a free seminar on growing hops at the Enjoy Centre, here in St. Albert. The seminar was run in part by the proprietors of Northern Girls Hopyard. They even brought along some hop plants for sale. At that time, they only had Cascade and Centennial hops, which, I understand, are used mainly in brewing IPAs. So, I separately ordered two Golding hops plants from them and picked them up two weeks ago.

I re-potted the hop plants in large planters. Why not in the ground, you might ask? The answer is that I was warned by a friend who has previously grown his own hops that they basically start growing everywhere. Hops propogate through rhizomes (i.e. the roots grow and send up new shoots), which means that you need to manage them. Putting the hop plants in a container seemed like an easier option.

The Northern Girls recommend the use of twine for the hop 'bines'. This requires hanging the twine from some kind of overhead point of contact, which was not practical. So, I tried a bamboo pole instead of twine. Fortunately, the hops have taken to this perfectly, with a tiny bit of training at the beginning:

Hop plant growing clockwise up and around bamboo.
I'm looking forward to seeing how the hops turn out. They are certainly growing quickly.