Would you have thought that you could grow one of the most characterizing components of your home brews right in your back yard? Well you can, and it all starts with a hop rhizome.
Unless you are really into the craft beer scene, or a home brewer, hops are probably a very single dimensional ingredient in the brewing process. Most people know that all beers have hops, but not everyone knows that there are many different varieties of hops. In fact, hops are one of the most identifiable, flavor defining components of your beer. Not only can hops vary the bitterness of your beer from a nice easy drinking blonde all the way up to a hop head’s dream IPA, but different hops can give unique aromas and flavors to your beers as well. Beyond the different varieties of hops, the area in which hops of the same variety are grown can have drastic effects on the flavor, aroma, and bitterness of the hop. Hopefully in another post some day soon I’ll be able to delve more into the varieties of hops.
As you may, or may not know, hops grow on a vine. It’s a vine that, over the course of the summer, can grow upwards of 20 feet. They look like small, green pine cones hanging off of the vine. Below you will see a picture of a single hop flower, then a farm full of hop vines.
“Hopfendolde-mit-hopfengarten“. Licensed under CC BY 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons.
“Chmelnice” by Ludek – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.
To get these wonderful little creations we must start with rhizomes. Rhizomes are small sections of root. They are planted at the base of something they can climb up as they grow, usually twine. This is a picture of a Rhizome from Northern Brewer.
Typically for the amount of hops the average home brewer uses in a batch of beer the cost is low. Most recipes will use an ounce or two of pellet hops for an average cost of less than $5.00. Therefore, building your own hop farm isn’t really for the purpose of cost savings. However, things like being more self sufficient, knowing exactly what is in your beer, and being able to say more of the beer came from your own hands are all great reasons to plant a rhizome or two in your back yard.
Pre-orders for the coming growing season’s hops usually begin in January and run through March, with Rhizomes shipping in April. Last year I was late to the party and ordered a few rhizomes in May, but delayed planting them until June, something I would highly advise against.
In another post I’ll go more into depth on the planting and growing process, but since we are just starting to get into the snowy season here in Michigan there is plenty of time for that discussion at a later date. Today I just wanted to let everyone know that the hops are coming and that some of the large brewery supply mail order companies are beginning to accept pre-orders for the 2015 crop. Please see the links below for a couple of the current pre-order hops that are available.
Adventures In Home Brewing – Hop Rhizome Pre Order
More Beer – Hop Rhizome Pre Order
Thanks and have a Hoppy Wednesday!