Do you brew? We have hops!

Photo courtesy of Scout Seventeen via Flickr

Hops are the flowering cones of a vigorous perennial vine called Humulus lupulus.  Hops provide the seasoning for beer; they balance the sweetness of the malt with bitterness and can add a variety of flavors and aromas.  They also aid in head retention and as a natural filter, help make beer clear.  Hops also have natural anti-bacterial properties.  It is said that traditional herb combinations for beer were abandoned once it was discovered that beer made from hops were less prone to spoiling.  That was around the 11th century and brewers have never looked back.  We have several varieties of hops available for growing in your home garden!  Below are variety descriptions taken from Beer

Cascade:  An aroma-type cultivar.  This is a popular variety in the U.S., it has a moderate bitterness level and a flowery aroma.  Cascade is used in ‘hoppy’ West Coast ales that have a citrus-floral character. (alpha acid: 4.5-6.0%/beta acid: 5.0/7.0%)

Centennial:  An aroma-type cultivar.  A relatively new hop on the market.  It is often described as “Super Cascade” although it is not as ‘citrusy’.  It is used for aroma as well as bittering.  Bitterness is clean and can have floral notes depending on the boil time.  (alpha acid: 9.5-11.5%/beta acid: 4.0-5.0%)

Columbus: High alpha variety with pungent aroma and clean bittering.  Excellent for bitter ales and American IPAs.  Can be dramatic with dry hopped.  (average alpha acid: 12%)

Mt. Hood: A triploid aroma-type cultivar.  An aromatic variety with a refined, spicy aroma and clean bittering.  A great choice for lagers.  (alpha acid: 4.0-6.0%/beta acid: 5.0-7.5%)

Because hops are a vine, they need room to climb.  In the first year an 8’ stake should suffice.  In subsequent years, they may need more room.  Plant them along a fence or with a short stake with a string or line run from it up to an anchor in the side of the home, garage or other structure.  You may need to train the vine along the way by wrapping young growth around the line.

Hops prefer a sunny location with well draining soil. You may need to till and amend your soil for optimal growing.  Space your plants 3-5 feet apart.

Hops is a beautiful vine, the light green leaves and flowering cones make an interesting addition to the landscape even if you don’t want to home brew.  They can be grown on a trellis or other structure and make a nice shade for the side of a porch or other relaxing spot in the garden.  Add one of these historical and interesting plants to your yard this year!