Hops in Pots – Harvest Time

Posted: March 23, 2014 in Growing Hops

In late January I was really pleased to see the beginnings of some flowers starting to sprout on both of my potted hop plants.  I understand these early growths are known as “burrs”.  Here’s a pic:



And sure enough over the next month these continued to grow, mostly on the top half or so of the bines on each plant.  I watched with much interest through most of February as fellow home growers around Australia posted about harvesting their hops, all the while keeping a keen eye on the maturity of my plants.  It seems the warmer the climate, the earlier you harvest, with guys in Brisbane, Perth and Sydney all harvesting in late Jan/early Feb.  Us Melbourne-based growers looked on enviously as pic after pic was posted of gorgeous green cones!  Our turn eventually came in late Feb/early March, which seems to be the “normal” time for the best growing regions to perform their harvests across the Southern Hemisphere.

I was tempted to harvest my crop a few times, but kept waiting for this signature ‘dryness’ everyone told me to look for.  In the end, I was referred to a Youtube video which does a great job of showing when your hops are ready: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TlsT-x19III

I was glad I saw that before I picked my hops, as they weren’t as dry as shown in the video.  A couple of weeks later though, on March 7, I decided my Hersbrucker needing harvesting.  Here’s what I got:

IMG-20140307-00011 IMG-20140307-00012

Small sure, but pretty impressive for a first year plant, and wholly satisfying I must say!  I got a similar amount off my Cascade plant a few days later….roughly 130 grams (4oz) wet from each.  I laid them out on a screen window in my brew-cave to dry:


The portion at the back inside my fermenter’s O-ring was a little idea I had to help work out when they’d finished drying.  I’d read that storing them before they’re fully dried could cause them to rot, so removing as much moisture as possible is really important.  So I sectioned off a cup-ful inside the O-ring, and every 6 hours or so I’d weigh them, to see if the weight continued to drop as they dried.  Sure enough after about a day and a half, the weight stopped dropping, and they were ready to vac-seal and freeze.  They lost a fair bit of weight through drying, around 40% or so.

So they’re now tucked away in my freezer while I think about what to do with them!  Next year I expect to get significantly more from each plant, so I’ll plan to use them in a “wet hop ale” pretty much as soon as they’re picked.  This year’s crop though, I’m not so sure…maybe I’ll link up with some fellow growers and look to do an experimental brew with them.

So all in all a great result, and I learnt a lot while doing it.  The other varieties I planted at the front of my house, in the ground, didn’t perform anywhere near as well.  I think for a variety of reasons…firstly I didn’t dig big enough holes, and their ability to lay down roots in the hard soil was no doubt hampered.  Also, despite my front yard facing north, there’s some very large trees that block the sun for large periods of the day, and I imagine that didn’t help.  So I think next year I’ll just have a couple of varieties in my pots (eco-kegs) out the back, where I’ve found a good, sunny spot for them.  I’m thinking just Cascade and Chinook, maybe Columbus if I can fit.  I’m not sure I need to grow any nobles such as Hersbrucker and Hallertau, as I don’t see much of a need to use them in my beers.


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