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Old 10-26-2011, 08:37 PM   #1
RobWalker
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Default First hop plant, advice?

I work as a gardener/landscaper, as does my dad, so no particular worries on keeping it healthy

However, I'm just after some general advice about what to buy, as I'll be getting it in root form and planting over winter. I'm imagining I will be wanting a heavy cropping dual purpose variety. How many 5 gallon brews would I expect to get from a plant each year?

I tend to brew light/golden/amber ales, nothing heavy.

Here's a list that I can find in the UK:

Fuggles
Cobbs EKG
Early Bird EKG
OMega
Bramling Cross
EKG
WGV
Phoenix
Target
Yeoman
Challenger
Progress
Prima Donna
Cascade
Golden Tassles

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Old 10-26-2011, 10:45 PM   #2
DarkBrood
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How many 5 gallon brews would I expect to get from a plant each year?
A seemingly simple question that warrants a complicated answer. Expected yield varies from plant to plant based on location, light exposure, soil quality, trellising opportunity, variety, and age of plant. A first-year plant can expect to yield little, if any, usable hop cones - even high end reports are usually less than one pound of wet hops per plant. Although first-year plants can grow 6-12 inches per day, second-year growth rates dwarf this. The plants die off down to the soil each winter, and the third year produces another explosive growth rate increase. Hop plants aren't usually considered full-grown until at least the third year, when they can easily grow up to 30 feet long in a season and provide many pounds of hops off of each bine. Hop bines need the trellising structure to continue growing - they can be near-horizontal, but need to always be growing upwards at least a little bit. As soon as bine tips need to grow horizontal or downward to reach the light or under weight, the bine stops its growth and starts growing cones. Allowing the bines to continue upwards until the seasonal light starts the flowering can maximize your yield. Fresh hops lose a significant amount of their weight and some of their aroma when dried. This, combined with the various amounts called for by different styles, makes it pretty hard to say how much you'd need for one particular 5-gallon batch, let alone estimate a number of batches. If you plant 10 bines in the first year and have them set up to grow 20-25 feet high with good light, then you could be happy with enough to do a batch or two. Second year from 10 bines will give enough to play with that you'll be wanting to dry and freeze at least some of them. In three years, 10 robust plants can give a single homebrewer enough hops to be giddy.

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However, I'm just after some general advice about what to buy, as I'll be getting it in root form and planting over winter. I'm imagining I will be wanting a heavy cropping dual purpose variety.
Traditional English varieties with reputations for being robust include Fuggles, Bramling Cross, and Goldings. Cascade is reputed to do well anywhere - but definitely has the classic American Northwest citrusy notes.
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Old 10-26-2011, 11:36 PM   #3
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Ah, I'm seeing what you mean. That's a lot of plants! I may buy one and clone it after that, see what happens - I could always use it in combination with other store bought hops....thanks for all the good advice!

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Old 10-27-2011, 02:14 PM   #4
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Most farmers/gardeners play the odds at least a little bit and tend to do things in threes. I've heard it explained several different ways, but the simplest explanation that makes sense to me is that "I'm sure I'll screw one up [wrong strain, fertilizer/water issues, poor location/light/etc.] and I'm sure Mother Nature will mess one up [storms, critters, molds, infetions,etc.], so that'll leave one that we both get right!"

For my first hop experiment here in northern New England, I ordered 2 rhizomes each of Cascade, Fuggles, and Willamette and planted them in 3 containers, with the rhizomes pairs laid out like an "X". This way, I ensured that my chances of healthy initial growth were doubled if there was a dead or infected rhizome - also encouraged the plants to grow strong initial root clusters. I used three different strains/varieties to ensure against a strain not liking the climate or needing different handling. As it turned out, that was a really good idea, because the Fuggles started off like a shot, then sort of dies off. The Willamette never got very strong. But the Cascade, although it started late, grew like gangbusters.

The American Northeast is known for problems with mildews, particularly downy mildew on hops, so my first factor in selecting strains/cultivars/varieties was mildew resistance. I also concentrated on hops for aroma use - it is very expensive to test hops for alpha acid percentages, generally prohibitively so for the homebrewer. This makes it difficult to calculate IBUs in a recipe with homegrown hops. The aroma additions are much more subjective and IBU contribution is of lesser importance. Additionally, if you boil your homegrown hops, you will lose a lot of the flavors and aromas that make them so unique!

Hops don't clone that well. You can do it and they do okay, but they are much happier propogating by rhizomes (root cuttings). By the time a plant is three years old (or sometimes by the second year), the roots will have formed a "crown" with rootlets extending from it. By carefully cutting sections of these rootlets and replanting them, new plants get a much faster start than from bine-tip clones.

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Old 10-27-2011, 02:17 PM   #5
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BTW, if you want to look up specific specs on hops, I have all of the standard data sheets from the suppliers on my site at http://www.digitalgibson.com/beer/data/hops

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SERVING: Gryffon's Talon, Tavernacle
CONDITIONING: Ancient Queen Elderberry Mead
FERMENTING: Black Imp
SOUR PROGRAM: Misterioux Ayahel, Ommedubbel, Pucker Knight, Lambicus Minimus

Last edited by DarkBrood; 10-27-2011 at 02:18 PM. Reason: fixed link
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