You see, I have been growing hops. Apparently, this is something of a novelty as every person who comes over to my house is greatly impressed by the hops. Now that I think of it, I'm the only person I've ever known with a hop garden. So today I decided I would tell you a little story about the creation of the hop garden, show you a few pictures, wish you a happy Labor Day, and go on about my weekend. No harm, no foul.
Once upon a time my friend J decided it would be fun to brew beer. We all heartily agreed that this was a good idea and happily sipped away at the confections that were coming out of J's house. Unfortunately, hops cost money. Apparently they're going for something like $40 a pound at the moment. J had the brilliant idea of growing hops ourselves. There was just one problem: he leaves town for months at a time due to his occupation and wasn't going to be here to plant, tend to, or harvest hops this summer. We figured this pretty much prohibited J's growing any hops as they generally have to be planted, tended to, and harvested to do anyone any good.
However, I do happen to have a little garden out back. And I do happen to like it that J brews his own beer. And I also happen to think $40 a pound is a little excessive. And so, the great hop garden was born. J ordered 2 hop roots, D constructed 2 lattice structures for the hops to grow up, and I sat around and watched all of this until it was time to plant the little guys. We've had mixed results. Unfortunately, the fuggle hop root completely bit the dust. It wasn't growing and wasn't growing and wasn't growing.... when I decided to dig it up and take a look at it, I couldn't even find the root. Sad day. However, our cascade hop root took off and has provided us with a good deal of hops. I don't have our final tally, but I'm hoping to have saved J $20 in hop fees this year. Since many people have never seen a real, live hop plant, I decided to take some pictures and show you what they look like.
The green, vine-y looking plant growing up that lattice is the hop plant. The lattice we have is 8 feet tall. From what I've read, the hops can grow 12 feet up and 25 feet out. Mine really didn't grow out, just up.
Here are the actual hop fruits/flowers. The green pinecone-looking things are what actually gets used for brewing. They are surprisingly light - not thick and heavy like pinecones would be. They're mostly made up of little tiny leaves all over. I've picked about a mixing bowl full and am drying some right now. J says that once they're dry all I have to do is freeze them and wait for him to come home.
Hops are what gives beer its bitter flavor. As you may have guessed, very bitter beers have more hops and less bitter beers have less hops. J has also informed me that some hops are used for flavor and some more for aroma. The hops that died on me were aroma hops (I think) and the ones that grew were flavor hops (again, I think - I could have gotten it mixed up). I'm going to keep picking them until frost when I plan to just cut the whole plant down and take what I can get. The plant will grow back next year (bonus!) and provide us with even more hops. Yea!
So, there it is! Your useless information station has provided you with a short little lesson on hops. Use it to impress your friends and loved ones!