Romance In The Hop Yard

Posted on April 26, 2010 by

The Hop FarmWell…it may not look like much now, but once 100 hop plants begin to sky thirty feet into the air, this is going to be a beautiful place to hang out. With a secluded, serene nature feeling overlooking a gorgeous Minnesota lake one cannot help themselves but feel great! Oh, did I mention there are 100 hop plants that will have grown up 30 feet around you? Yea, bliss…

This past weekend Jay invited some friends to come down to his house and help erect old telephone poles and string wire for the hop vines that he planted last year. I was helping my brother move early in the day so I wasn’t able to partake in the hole digging and pole erecting. From what I understand though, it went a lot smoother than anyone could have imagined thanks to the EZ SPOT UR attachment to the Bobcat.

Putting the Poles Up

Using an auger to dig holes

Courtesy Jay

Basically, an auger attachment was added to the front of the Bobcat. Each hole was measure out and marked before hand. The Bobcat auger made short work of the hole digging. I believe each hole was dug about 5 to 6 feet deep. Once all the holes were dug it was time to put the poles in. Driving down I was thinking to myself how a few guys were going to erect twelve 30 foot poles into the ground. Fortunately, these cool attachment called the EZ SPOT UR made it amazingly easy. The device is like a hand on the front of the Bobcat that has the ability to rotate 90 degrees, like a wrist and elbow on your arm. The

EZ SPOT UR

Courtesy Jay

EZ SPOT UR clamps the pole, lifts it up, then rotates vertically so you can just plant it into the hole. I’d like to thank the guys from EZ SPOT UR for helping us and allowing us to use this awesome attachment to save a ton of time and energy! So when I arrived there were 12 poles standing tall in the yard with wire lopped through an eye hook at each end. Even though the poles were up, there was still plenty of work to be done.

Raising the Guides

Raising the hops lineWe ate some amazing cheesy potatoes and steak, grabbed a homebrew and headed back to the farm. Our main objective was to string up 100 lines of Kevlar, shoe lace like, straps for the hops to grow up. Sara, my wife, got started right of way stringing up the strapping. Myself, on the other hand, ended up starting with some much needed weeding. A million years of creation and evolution has been living on this piece of land up until last year when Jay striped it of its praireness and planted his rhizomes for his hops farm. What this means is that for the next few years we are going to be fighting weeds until we can get them into a more manageable amount. Jay does not want to use a weed killer or anything for the obvious reasons…We are making beer with these little hoppies. So we’ll do it the old fashioned way, with love!

Hop plant sprouting out of the groundWith that being said, I started digging up weeds. There are a lot of them out there and this is going to be a summer project for sure! At one point though, I realized I needed to help with stringing up the straps, this was the main objective of the day. For about 3 or 4 hours we worked, pulling weeds and tying straps. We decided to tie the straps to the line and to the stakes in the ground. This way, when we rose the line, the straps would be right next to the plant and would hopefully be a seamless transition for the hop plant as it grows.

So much fun!

Mike on a tractorThis project was probably one of the most fun projects I’ve partook in, in quite a while. Jay and I both agreed that sitting behind a desk all day doesn’t afford you these opportunities. We got to enjoy the outdoors, play with toys like bob cats, tractors and four wheelers and most importantly, increase our capabilities as brewers with our very own homegrown hops for homegrown beer. In 4 short months we will hopefully have 200 to 300 lbs of Cascade, Willamette, and Nugget hops.

I’m not sure how we are going to use all of it. But this is another one of those “experiments” that being a homebrewer encourages you to participate in and another reason I love brewing my own beer.

As I go out there and continue to weed and nurture these wonderful gifts from nature, I’ll update with some pictures. The plan right now is to harvest and vacuum seal the bags for future use or shipping. I really look forward to seeing this progress.

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  • http://www.lugwrenchbrewing.com JW

    Mike,

    Very cool – can't wait to see how everything comes up.

    -JW

  • mikebiewer

    You and me both!

    Thanks for the comment!

    Mike

  • completegeek

    That's serious business right there!

  • http://www.DrinkHomeBrew.com Brett

    What kind of hops did you plant? I stuck with Cascade and Kent Goldings on my first batch because I heard they were the easiest to grow (which I'm sure will come true, and then some).

    -Brett

  • mikebiewer

    Brett,

    I believe we have five. Cascade, Amarillo, Chinook, Centennial and Northern Brewer. I'll double check this weekend when I go. We are mostly growing the hops that are aroma but can double with some good bittering. I don't believe any of these strains can swing to one or the other more.

    Thanks for stopping by!

    Mike

  • Sandjessejess

    How much dried hopps are you expecting from 100 plants the 1st year? I know it takes 3 yrs to reach max. potential. Im going to use cedar trees from the my land for the post. How much wire did you get also?
    The spot looks great by the way!

    Jesse

  • Anonymous

    Jesse,

    We actually didn’t get anything. We had a really big issue with weeds and thistles. Our garden has been a farm yard for 100′s of years and keeping the weeds under control was extremely difficult.

    We didn’t use wire, we used some really thick “shoe string” for lack of better description. One of the major problems with growing hops in the midwest is the wind. The wind would constantly mess up our system.

    So, lessons learned, but I don’t for see a good crop for some time.

    Mike

  • Mattr

    Hey Mike,

    I’m writing a thesis on the brewing industry, emphasizing on the impact that the growing share of the craft beer market has on the industry on a whole. Something I’m curious about is the increased production of hops in the US, and specifically, who is responsible for the increased production of hops (clearly brought on my increased demand). To put it more simply, what were these farmers doing before growing hops, and what benefits do they gain from doing so? If you have any knowledge on this subject, I would really appreciate it.

    Thanks,

    Matt

  • Anonymous

    Matt,

    I don’t have a lot of knowledge on this subject really. We started growing our own hops when they were crazy expensive 2 years ago. Now they’ve leveled off in price again, probably because there are more producers.

    However, I have toyed with the idea of one day owning a hops farm of my own. The real reason…because there isn’t enough stuff in the country that is produced anymore. All of our production goes East and frankly, I’d like to actually make something from raw materials and I have a large interest in beer. So aside from growing grain, hops and making beer…I think I’d just stick with the hops to start.

    Sorry I don’t have much more information for you. I’m hoping to visit a hop farm this summer in southern Oregon. I’ll know more then!

    Mike

  • Kevin Stripling

    40 lbs per bine group (2-3 bines per string), I hope you used some heavy gage.

  • Anonymous

    I think the gauge would have been good, but it very well could have stretched had it been full of hops. The wind became a big factor for us though. I think, if we were to do this again, I’d approach it differently. Living in Portland, I’ve learned a couple of tricks other people are doing in their yards which could be taken up on a larger scale. As soon as the summer begins here, I may trek out to a hop yard and see what they are doing.

    Mike

  • Milan Blaho

    http://www.heritageoakfarm.com/Pot-Handler.aspx

    Is A Potholder Essential For Nursery Equipment? – A potholder makes plant rotation and tree moving so much easier. When it comes to nursery equipment anything that makes the farm, nursery or landscape job more productive is essential.

  • MinnesotaGrown

    So…. How’d it go? lol 6 years later.

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