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Growing The Mighty Hop Vine

Published at 2014-06-05 06:50:14
“He was a wise man who invented beer” – Plato

 Growing Hop Vines and enjoying the produce. William Brodrick

“He was a wise man who invented beer” – Plato

 Though I don’t think a truer statement has been said, Plato had been dead for over a 1000 years when hops had been introduced to beer. Now hops are primarily used in beer production to add bitterness. Beer varieties like Indian Pale Ale generally have an extra hoppy flavour compared to a lager beer. There is Imperial Indian Pale Ale, which has an even stronger hop flavor and sits above 7.5% alcohol – it is sure to give you a fine example of hops in beer.

 As craft beers, boutique bars and bearded beer nerds are cropping up all over inner city dwellings, its no surprise that hops are being grown at home for home brewing more frequently. Slowly going are the days of adding water, a can of molasses and yeast with the results being poured into old Melbourne Bitter long necks. Now brewers use different types and mixtures of yeasts, malts, sugars and most importantly for this topic - hops.

 Now, before I start with hops, I must say that hops are great plant to grow in their own right and not just for beer brewers. They are a hardy and vigorous plant that is easily grown at home. Train them on a post or wire and they can grow up around 7-9 meters, and then cut back annually.

 Firstly, you need to be in the right area geographically; Victoria and all of Tasmania provide the perfect amount of daylight hours. Hops grow well in regions of NSW and ACT, they do need plenty of water through the growing season.

 Once you’ve pick your spot, one that will get heaps of sun, so a northerly position that gets the east-west sunshine is best. Good drainage and neutral pH soil is a good idea also. You should also note that hops grow from rhizomes that will get larger in size annually and the root system of hops are spread quickly so plant them in an open spot and ideally separate the rhizomes and trim the root system every season.

 Place the rhizomes, roots down, shoots up in a fertilized hole, 5 cm deep in August and make sure you mulch the area well. You need to make sure you have a strong trellis firmly planted in the ground. At harvest time the plant can easily weigh over 10 kilos so you need to make sure it can be supported.

 After selecting the strongest vine to grow up the support, while keeping the water up to them, fertilized but keeping the soil at a neutral ph when Summer comes you will be enjoying looking at your luscious hop plant covered in interesting waxy cones.

 If you are a beer-brewing master, there is surely nothing more rewarding then using your own hops in your next brew. Trying out the different varieties (The Plant shop is selling Cascade, hallertauer, perle and fuggle) to make that next winner to enjoy among your friends. If your not into brewing beer, but still enjoy a fine frothy, why not trade off some hops to your friends in exchange for some beer made from your own hops. Even if you are into the old wives tales and herbal remedies - stuffing hops in your pillow supposedly destines you to a good nights sleep. I might leave that one to someone else.

 Whatever you wish to do, you are sure to have great fun growing hops and it provides a great talking point in your garden. Maybe better talked about with a beer… or a wine… or anything really.