For my birthday last year, number one son, Ben, bought me a range of hop plants. The idea being to grow our own hops for the Dizzy Pig brewing part of the Pool Cottage Smallholding adventure. We now have Cascade, Fuggles, Golding, Prima Donna and Northern Brewer hops, which if we could grow them successfully in North Shropshire, would allow us to brew many different styles of beer.
After a bit of research we discovered that the hops can grow up to 23 ft high and ideally should be south facing! A bit of a problem to say the least. The rhizomes were stored over winter and planted out in early spring 2018. The Cascade, Fuggles and Golding, were planted against a frame extending to about 15 ft up and trained up coir rope in our big field (the highest I dare go!). The Prima Donna was planted against our field shelter and all were south facing!
A spare fuggles and cascade were planted between the poly-tunnels and trained along wires and the northern brewer was placed in the back yard to be grown along the back fence. Essentially, we had hops everywhere!
The long hot summer of 2018 was perfect for hops and over the weekend of 15-16th September the main crop was harvested.
I was dispatched up the ladder to cut down the supporting coir ropes and the vines were coiled into buckets. The pickers then were given beer and wine to sustain them, as they carefully and patiently picked the hop cones off the vine, making sure the different varieties were kept separate.
Each batch was then dried using the fan of our dehydrator (no heat, in order to maintain all the hop oils). After drying they underwent vacuum packing and freezing to lock in all the hoppy goodness.
The thing that amazed us here at Pool Cottage, was how little usable hops we actually ended up with for all our efforts and the number of plants following the drying process. In total, we froze just over 1/2 a kilo of dried hops, enough to make 5 - 6 batches of beer (approx 30 gallons). Still, that's 240 pints of beer made from our own "Shropshire" hops. We're not self sufficient by any stretch, nor will be selling to Marston's this year, but by all accounts hop yields get bigger as the plants mature.
We still have the spare batch of cascade to gather in, but the plan is to pick these fresh and use them to create a "Shropshire Cascade" IPA. Hopefully the aroma of freshly picked hops will produce an awesome ale.