When I think of beer garden, this isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. However, as a farmer brewer this is the first thing I hope to be able to product myself to include in my own beer.
What you see below is the fruits of a few hrs of manual labor, some unused and reused items from around the farm, and a few gifted hop plants. A kind soul, Lyn from Brew Free or Die (more about this later) was very generous and shared some plants with me, a cascade and Hallertau. Along side those two, I planted 3 other pairs of rhizomes Cascade, Glacier, and Columbus. The other pairs were purchased last spring, and due to poor planning on my part, never made it to pots or the ground. I do not know if they will sprout after such a long dormancy, so I have also purchased some additional plants (Perle, Centennial, Galena) that just arrived. After they harden a bit, I’ll look for sprouting bines, and make the call on which to keep / or pot for next season.
When I originally purchased the hops, I’d thought I’d have enough time to get em in the ground. I was wrong. After doing some research, I knew I needed to do more than just tossing them into the ground. Leap forward a year, and I’ve now read The Homebrewers Garden and Grow your own hops, and have enough of an idea how to do it right, and just enough free time to do so. It took about 4 hrs all said and done. First step was to desod and turned over a 15×3 patch of soil, I then mix in some rich compost from a well aged pile. Then I made 5 mounds 7 inches high 1/2 a foot apart, then dug a small trough, and planted the pairs of rhizomes, and two plants. I followed that up with a night thick layer of mulch. Mother nature then did it’s deed and rained for the two following days, ensuring they had a good soak. This past week I finished up the trellis.
To trellis the hops, I’ve put 5 eyelets to the side of the house, and strung a high strength wire though the eyelets. I then tied off bailing twine from the wire, down to stakes behind the mounds. The two plants I’ve started to train up a tail I’ve knotted off the twine, since they are too short to reach the twine at present. When hops are first starting the need to be trained to climbing the twine, until they are strong enough to make their own purchase.
From what I read you can expect very little in the way of production the first year. However with the early start of the growing season this year, It seems to me that the biggest challenges for these guys will be to hops wet, and they should hold their own. We had a very dry winter, almost no mud season, and it’s looking like we’ll likely have a dry spring and summer. I’m hoping the plants from Lyn will have a strong year, since we are off to such a solid start to the spring, and she has had good yield from the hallertau. The good news is, I think other than the old dried out rhizomes, I think I’ve done everything right, so, in the coming years we should have a good harvest, and be brewing our own fresh hop beer come late fall. Cheers to being a farmer brewer!
Ps. Working the soil in New England is tough work. This was a small 15×3 piece of soil, that was full of rocks and sticks and debris, I can’t imagine being a real farmer here.