Archive for the ‘Growing Hops’ Category

Hops in Pots – 2014/15 harvest

Posted: October 31, 2015 in Growing Hops

I just realised I’d posted nothing about my second year experiences with growing hops in pots.  So here’s a quick summary…

After making a huge fuss over my first year hops, with all the watering, feeding, bine training etc etc…and then getting less than 100 grams out of them, I was probably a little disenchanted by the whole thing.  So in year 2 I only bothered putting my “trellis” up on the Cascade, as I didn’t really have a need for Hersbrucker flowers even if I was to get any.  Mind you, being the hardy little buggers they are, the Hersbrucker grew without my assistance, climbing up the pool fence instead!

On to the Cascade, it sprouted promisingly, and by early February looked really healthy:


Roll onto mid-March and the bines were overflowing with flowers, they were feeling quite dry and papery, with a couple starting to turn brown.  So off they came:


Picking them all off took ages, and resulted in this:

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1.2kg worth!  Pretty impressive given I gave them very little attention, no plant food, and only occasional water.  Onto screens they went to dry:

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I ended up with just under half a kilogram (~1lb) dried.  And they ended up going into a Merri Mashers collaboration beer we did with Thunder Road Brewing known as “Red Man Walking”.  So I still haven’t ever brewed with actual hop flowers!


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:

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:

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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.

Hops in pots update

Posted: January 9, 2014 in Growing Hops

I wasn’t going to post an update as yet, as it doesn’t feel like my hops are doing a hell of a lot.  Some growers in more Northern states are posting pics of hop cones sprouting, and some have even picked their first harvest of the year!  But everyone down here in Melbourne is just watching and waiting.

But then I took a look at the last lot of pics I posted, and realised there’s been a lot more going on than I thought.  See for yourself:

Cascade – It’s looking pretty bushy down low, with a couple of strong, thick bines that are around 2/3rds of the way up my “trellis”.



Hersbrucker – One of its bines reached the top of my trellis last week, so I climbed to the top and let the string down to give it some more room.  The bine is quite thick and sturdy, it doesn’t bend like I thought it would, so I’m not sure this design is all that appropriate.  I had to tie some sections of the bine to the horizontals with plastic ties to stop it blowing around too much in the wind.  I think next year I’ll rig something super-tall so they can all climb straight up.



A wide shot of the both of them:



So these potted hops seem to be growing really well.  I’ve been pretty frugal with watering, using a cheapo soil moisture meter occassionally and only watering them when it’s bordering on dry.  I see other growers on my home brew forum seem to water a lot more, but for now I’ll continue based on soil moisture levels.

I haven’t taken photo’s of my other two varieties, planted in the ground out the front….unfortunately the Columbus is almost completely dead, it went an awful brown colour, so I cut the worst bines back, leaving only two…and even those two look nasty.  I’ll post a photo of it soon.

The chinook looks healthy as ever, but has completely stalled…it has around 4 or 5 bines, each around a metre tall or so, but it doesn’t look to have grown at all recently.  I think the soil has a drainage issue where I’ve planted it, so before next season I’ll dig the area up and see if I can prep it better.

It’s just turned to Summer here down under, and I realised it’s been 2 months since my last “Hops in Pots Down Under” update, but really it’s because there’s was very little visible action since that last post.  All my research seems to show me this is pretty normal for first year hops, they show a few sprouts, a short bine or two, then get stuck into establishing their root system.  Sure enough, I had a bit of a dig around on my Cascade, and the little rhizome I stuck into the potting mix back in early August is laying down some serious foundations.  There’s also a heap of new shoots starting to bud out of the main part of the rhizome, so it looks like things will get pretty interesting over the coming months.

I’ve taken a few photos of my varieties today, because just in the last week there’s been some good progress.  First up the Cascade…the main bine that sprouted early has still not done a lot lately, other than a bit over half of it falling off the string during some high winds a week or two back.  I wound it back on, hopefully everything’s ok.  You can just see in the wide shot a 2nd shoot poking its head out, on the left in the close shot.  It looks really healthy, so I’ll watch that with great interest in the coming weeks:

1st year Cascade after 4 months  IMG-20131203-00051

Next up the Hersbrucker.  This little fella aint so little any more…it must have read my last post about the Cascade kicking its arse, because I walked out there a few days ago to find a new bine had grown from almost nothing, to around a foot long in less than 48 hours.  I quickly gave it a string to cling to (on the right), and promised never to mock it again:


Now onto the Columbus.  Remember this one is from a whole transplanted root system I bought, rather than a single rhizome.  It’s still not doing a whole lot with the 3 or 4 bines that sprung up in no time flat, and it’s a fair bit paler in colour than my other plants, but still looks healthy enough:


And finally the Chinook, no doubt the pride of the bunch, as it’s doing what you’d expect hops to do, shooting out long, strong, healthy looking bines that are winding their way quickly towards the sun.  There’s two long bines on that middle string, and one on the right…with a new one not far off winding its way up the left string.  Go you good thing!


It’s now been two months since planting my hop rhizomes, and the Cascade has fast overtaken the Hersbrucker…although the Cascade has grown only a single bine so far, whereas the Hersbrucker has two.  Interestingly one of the Hersbrucker bines grew sideways, and seemed to only pop out once it hit the side of my pot/keg.  I had to coax it out from under the lip of the pot, and since then, both of the bines have stalled somewhat.  I’m wondering if it’s because of this turn of weather we’ve had in Melbourne, with high winds and a fair few colds days and rain.

Here’s a pic of the Cascade now winding its way up the string:

Cascade has reached the string

Amusingly I spent an hour or so on the PC trying to work out which way I was supposed to ‘train’ the bine to curl up the string…I’d read that they wind the opposite way in the Northern Hemisphere compared to down under in Australia.  A lot of blogs kept saying to “train them clockwise” in the US, but they never said if that was looking from the top down, or from the perspective of the hop bine itself, i.e. bottom up.  Anyway, I’d pretty much settled on it being anti-clockwise, looking from the top down….and then I went out to the hop pot to see how things were going, and it turned out that it had wound itself a couple of turns already, just the way it wanted.  So, for the record, it appears hops in Australia like to grow in a clock-wise direction around the string, looking from the top down.

I have also decided to plant two more varieties at the front of my house, and I’ll attach a couple of lines of string up the exterior walls.  They’re Chinook and Columbus varieties….photos to come soon.

Ok, with the Hersbrucker and Cascade sprouting nicely, it was time to build the ‘adjustable trellis’, as per the design I’d seen from my fellow hops in pots grower over in Texas.

So I attached 3 horizontal beams to my tomato stakes, roughly 80cm wide, with a galvanised steel eye bolt at each end of the beam.  Then another eye bolt at the very top.  Here’s a pic of the Cascade pot once I’d completed the trellis, and run 2 lines of sisal string along them:

Cascade trellis complete 2


The idea being that I’ll train 2 or 3 bines to each of the 2 strings…and as they grow, I can let the string down to allow the lower part of the bines to droop, while the top the bine continues pointing upwards, as they prefer.

Here’s some photos of the Hersbrucker and Cascade about 6 weeks after I initially planted them.  These were taken on September 7, first the Cascade:

Cascade has sprouted


And the Hersbrucker:

Hersbrucker has leaves