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Old 02-13-2011, 08:26 PM   #1
drinkingcoffee
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Default Wild/Feral hops

Hi everyone --

The backstory:

Last year a friend of mine mentioned that he was looking for a good side project to start at his family's blueberry farm in Nova Scotia. Since I'm a beer fanatic and was just getting ready to brew my first batch of beer, I stood up and shouted "hops"! It's a few months later now, and we are both still interested in (and researching) the idea... So, he brought the subject up with his father who lives on the farm. His father said 'funny you should say that, there are a bunch of hop vines growing near that old house'.

The 'old house' in question is actually not a house any more but just the remains of a stone foundation where a house used to be. Since the hops are only growing around the house and not anywhere else on the property, the thinking is that the house's former residents probably planted them there. Since that 'house' (and then ruins of a house) has been empty for at least 150 years, that would make for a pretty old hops patch. Also, the possibility that people started growing these hops and were making beer with them upwards of 2 centuries ago is pretty frikken cool.

The questions:

- Is our reasoning (that the hops were originally planted there at least 150 years ago) plausible, or are we crazy here? I know that individual hop vine are supposed to last 25-50 years, so this would be quite a few generations of hops later.

- Now, I know from reading around here and the internet, it's pretty hard to identify hops by sight (and I won't have any photos for at least a number of months anyway), but is it possible to narrow the possible hop varieties down based on the presumed date (150+ years) and location (Nova Scotia)? Does anyone know what they would have been planting at that time?

- Is it worth trying to cultivate these hops, or does that sound like a waste of time? My friend is planning on building some kind of trellis for them when he is there this spring to see what happens.

- We're also planning on planting some commercially acquired hops somewhere on the property this year -- I'm guessing we need to be careful to avoid any cross-pollination from the wild/feral hops (there must be some male plants there). Is there a minimum separation distance to help avoid that?

Thanks + cheers!



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Old 02-13-2011, 09:50 PM   #2
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There are some hops native to North America. But since they are only growing near the house I would assume they were not those.

During that time period most of the hops would probably have been Cluster. If there was a German community in that area they could be Hallertau or some other continental variety but my bet is still Cluster.



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Old 02-14-2011, 12:22 AM   #3
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The wild hops around me grow on a red bine, seem to be quite high yield, and have a very strong herbal smell like basil. I had originally thought that they were Cluster, but I found the same hops growing in an area where a hop farm couldn't have existed, and no one would have lived.

If the house wasn't lived in for the last 150 years, you are looking at one of the classic European strains like Goldings, Fuggles, Nobles, etc... Clusters are the default thought when someone discusses wild or feral hops, and they could of course be Clusters. It was the biggest hop grown for a long time in the US. It could of course be a true wild hop, which is always a fun card to be able to play.

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Old 02-14-2011, 12:24 AM   #4
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If I was you I would try the local library or historical society, or search the provincial agricultural records . This MIGHT give you a lead or help in determining the hop variety. Last year I was looking through a New York State agricultural record book (1883)and was surprised to find that hops were one of the major crops grown in this area of NY. I believe that Nugget was the major variety. No guarantee but it might help.

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Old 02-14-2011, 12:42 AM   #5
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that would be such a fun project to dive into, have a great time, and let us know what you find out!

i they are 150 years old, I'd add roman cdc to the name (and just hope no one ends up in quarantine!)

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Old 02-14-2011, 01:10 AM   #6
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Otsego, Oneida, and Montgomery counties of NY grew more hops than anywhere else in the US pre-prohibition. I grew up in Otsego county, right between Ommegang and Cooperstown breweries.

Nugget is a modern hybrid cultivar spawned at Corvallis. The cultivar that dominated the landscape back in those days was Cluster. It had decent AA%, great storage stability, and was comparatively high yield for the day.

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Primary: Saison "Vomissure de Grenouille" (2nd Gen 3711 from dregs, Pale Ale malt, Crystals and Willamettes)
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Old 02-14-2011, 02:38 PM   #7
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Hi all --

Thanks for the quick replies. I'm definitely going to look into this more, and will be back here with whatever information I gather.... and eventually pictures and tasting notes!

It should be a fun project and (not to be too dramatic) really brings to life the historical aspect of beer/brewing.

cheers

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Old 02-14-2011, 02:57 PM   #8
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+1 on the Cluster thought.

Though, they have probably gone feral in that amount of time. Either through pollination or mutation, the characteristics have probably changed. Most of the feral hops we have found seem to be pretty low on alpha's and developed smell and flavor different than modern varieties. Still, harvest some and see what happens.

The other thing to watch is for any "boys" popping up. Most likely, some of them are now male. Pollination will definitely affect the chemical profile of any modern varieties you plant and the pollen is very find so it can easily travel a mile or more. If you see any males pop up, dig them out.

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Old 02-17-2011, 03:02 AM   #9
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Consider Canadian Red Vine
Very popular and prolific



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