LOL. Wise man, I know a part time semi pro and this business ain't easy. I'm a full time amateur and it still ain't easy.
---------What hops would do well in Michigan?
I would grow what you use. Forget about where you are and issues of weather and climate. Hops like to grow, so grow something you use.
When I started 3 years ago, I bought four plants that were available to me. My Chinook and Cascade get used a lot. My Sterling, I grow just because it's there. Mt. Hood, I use it a bit.
My 2nd year I put in 13 more plants, all different varieties. Some produced, some didn't. I had the land and I decided "I'll have options." Three years into this hobby, I'm a significantly better brewer and I've learned I'm growing a bunch of hops I don't use and a few hops I use a lot. My plan is to either remove or move the plants I don't care for much and focus on the gals I like a lot. I have a 3 cascade plants and I would like to build a Randall that I can fill with an abundance of free hops all year round. That's living. To do that, I may need another plant!
-------Do hops growers have problems with deer and rabbits destroying their crop, because I have both on my property (I can fence if needed)?
I have a privacy fence so no deer issues. I think I've read that some guys have issues. My hops are grown in my raised garden. Maybe the other plants distract the rabbits, but I've never had an issue with animals eating my hops. The only thing that eats my hops are Japanese Beetles, which I curse! Damn you to hell Japanese Beetles!
-----------Is is already too late to consider planting for this year (today is 5/12/11)?
I think barring frozen ground, it's never to late to plant. What you don't produce this year, will ideally help you next year. If you plant today, I think in ideal circumstances you'll get 'something'- say an ounce or two dry (maybe). But the first year is all about learning what to do. Year two, you'll tweak your method and correct your first mistakes. Year three, (at least for me) things will start to move smoothly (if I get that Oast built). If you can get some rhizomes, go for it. Just remember this is a foundation year. Don't have high expectations and you'll be fine.
-----------What are the ideal soil conditions for hops growth?
I'm not an expert here, but I can tell you a few things. I'm a huge composter, I amend all my soil with compost. I burn clean wood and I add the ash to my compost. I'm in IL, a lot of clay in my area. My soil is great, and my hops grow well. I have a neighbor who also grows hops. Same clay soil. No amendments. Just garden top soil. It took longer for his hops to develop, but before he gave them up (to me) these plants were huge- larger than a 5 gallon bucket. When we dug up his plants we noticed that if the plant couldn't grow down due to the clay, it grew 'out'. He did seem to have any tap roots, but he had these 5' to 8' runners under ground. That is, his plants were shallow, but massive wide. The point is, this plant really wants to live. If there is a way to grow, it'll find it. So by all means shoot for healthy soil, mulch to retain moisture, and water and these plants will do their best.
I love this hobby, more than brewing. I get to be outside, I see results everyday, I have things to tinker with and bitch about and end of season I have free hops. My SMASH beers (single malt and single hop) involve just the cost of grain. The local home brew store wants to try selling my hops end of season. If I can get my surplus hops to pay for my grain, this hobby will be virtually free. I feel like I'm living the homebrewer's dream. I love growing hops.