Can I Grow My Own Hops? – A Guide on Growing Hops at Home
Growing hops at home isn’t as hard as it seems, you just need to know where to start! Here are some tips for adding homegrown hops to your homebrew!
By Alex St Cyr on Aug. 29, 2019
Homebrewing is a learning process, and there are always new things you can be doing to improve your beer game! Being able to add homegrown hops to your beer is a new element to include and change flavour profiles, aromas and more.
First of all, what are hops?
Hops are the flowers especially are grown in order to provide bittering, flavouring and structuring to the beer. Brewers use hops to influence the maltiness and bitterness of their beer, and hops can also impart aroma and help prevent beer from going bad. Learn more about hops and the role they play in beer here.
Does all beer have hops?
The amount of hops in your beer is measured by the International Bitterness Units (IBU) scale. The higher the number on the scale = the higher amount of hops. But, not all beers have hops! Gruit beer generally does not contain many hops as they are not as involved in the creation period, and light lagers are also lower in IBU count at around 5-10. For a more in-depth description about IBUs, check out the 3 need-to-know acronyms.
Are hops easy to grow? Do they grow back every year?
Yes! If you’ve ever wondered if you can grow your own hops, just know that it is quite a simple process. Hops are perennial plants, so they come back year after year. They are easy to grow long as you have enough sunlight and space to do it. Let’s take a look at how to grow hops from your home:
How to Grow Hops at Home
Choose What Hops Variety You Want to Grow
Once you’ve decided on the hop varietal you’d like to grow, it’s time to buy it. It’s an easy search to find retailers. Usually ordering your hops (or rhizomes) is best done in March or April, which puts you just ahead of the planting season. Once you have received your rhizomes, they should be slightly moistened (not wet – think a spritz of water) hand kept in a refrigerator or cool place and in the dark.
The type of hops you choose will depend on how you’d like to affect flavour, aroma and body in your homebrew.
Decide Where Your Hops Will Grow
Ensure the right growing environment. When put in the right environment, your hops can grow up to 25 feet long during a full growing season, so it’s important to plan ahead where you’d like to start your crop. Be prepared to commit to this location as well, as your hops will be back year after year.
What’s the best climate for growing hops?
Luckily for Canadians and USA residents, hops can be grown in moderate climates. However, hops thrive in USDA hardiness zones 5 to 9. The hop variety you are growing also plays a roll in growth as some varieties are more resistant to things like heat, pests, and mould.
How much sunlight do hops need per day?
Hops generally need to be in a place that gets 7-8 hours of sunlight per day. A full-sun or only partial-shade location are preferred. It’s also important to ensure that the soil is not in clumps and will allow for proper drainage.
Your hops will produce bines that need to latch onto something and grow – think a twine fence, trellis or another lattice structure. Some homebrewers will also put out the wire and allow it to grow vertically that way. A growing surface between 12 and 18 feet (if you have space) will allow the hops plant to reach proper heights.
Fun fact: Hops plant grow bines, not vines because they use their shoots and bristles rather than tendrils and suckers.
Care for the Plants
Plant your hops as soon as the ground thaws. You want to maximize the amount of growing time available for your hops! Be sure to care for and water your hop plants!
Do hops need a lot of water to grow? How often do hops need to be watered?
Hop bines are vegetative, so frequent, short waterings are best. However, you don’t want to plant your hops in areas that are prone to standing water. Hops require around 700-800 mm of water during their growing season.
How Long Does it Take to Grow Hops?
Generally, the growing season for hops is from when the ground has thawed from winter (beginning of May, often) when you plant your rhizomes and will last until you harvest the flowers at the end of summer.
Harvest Your Hops
By late summer (end of August/start of September), the cones housing the hop flowers will become a lighter green and start to dry out and feel crispy to the touch.
Depending on how you’ve let your hops grow, there are a few different methods for harvesting. If you’ve strung them up with twine, then cut the twine down and lay the bines down flat, removing the cones carefully from the plants.
If on a trellis, lattice or pergola, leave the plants intact as you remove the cones (you may need a ladder for the higher hops). After removing the hops cones, cut the bines to approximately 1 foot off the ground to help with the growing process next season.
Let the Hops Dry Out & Store Them Safely
Freshly plucked hops can either go straight into the brewing process (within 24 hours of being picked) or they can be dried out and stored for later use!
They can be laid out in a cool dark place for 24 hours to dry, put between two towels and manually dried over the course of most of a day or dried for a short amount of time in the oven. If using the over, do not set the temperature past 150 °F and monitor the hop cones until they are ready to be taken out.
The rule is that once the stems feel brittle enough that you could almost snap them, then they’re dry enough. Once they are dry enough, they should be vacuum-sealed to prevent oxidation and frozen to preserve their fresh qualities in future use.
For you visual learners out there, here’s a short video detailing how to grow your hops at home!
What type of beer has the most hops?
India Pale Ales, and variations of that beer style, usually contain the highest IBU count amongst all beer styles. The process of adding hops into an IPA can be doubled and even tripled, creating the hoppiest (and strongest) beer out there! If you’re a total hop head, click here to have a look at some of the hoppiest beers ever brewed.
Wanna learn more about beer? Here are a few articles to keep you going:
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What’s the Best Way to Learn About Beer?
Ask a what? A Certified Cicerone®. That is, a beer expert who has passed a particular certification exam administered by the Craft Beer Institute. You can think of them as beer sommeliers. Obviously they know alot about beer and are a great resource.