On several occasions I’ve mentioned that when it comes to brewing beer, the more ownership I have over the process, the better I feel about the finished product. For example, I make my own candy sugar, dry my own orange peels, and culture much of the yeast I use. Recently I planted my own hop rhizomes in hopes of not only saving a few shekels down the road, but also to take more ownership of the process.
Knowing more about beer than horticulture, I remember a couple of years ago asking the owner of my the local homebrew shop if he had any “hop seeds.” I cringed in embarrassment when he politely stated that he would be ordering “hop rhizomes” in the future. So I went home and researched the hop plant…something I should have done before opening my mouth at the brew shop. Hops utilize rhizomes to propagate. A rhizome is simply a stalk, stem, or root mass that grows horizontally underground and sends out roots and shoots (vines, in the case of the hop plant) as it grows. The cool thing about such plants is that once mature, simply chopping off a bit of the underground rhizome and transplanting it easily results in a new plant.
That being said, I finally got around to ordering a few rhizomes and planted them in the my backyard. Hops love sun, but not wind, and require a well drained soil or else decay can occur. They also are a climbing vine. So, I planted my hops on the sunny side of the house close to the house wall where they are sheltered from the gusts of wind we get here in Kansas City. I made little mounds of soil mixed with gravel to properly drain rhizome and it’s root systems, and built little walls of brick and rocks around the rhizomes. Just two weeks later vines are poking out of the soil, and even though I know my yield will be only a few ounces this first year, I am giddy with excitement. Soon I will be constructing a twine climbing system for my little acidic babies.
Below are pics of my future crop of hops. I ordered my rhizome from Midwest Brewing Supply for just $4.99/rhizome. In order that they appear, I am growing Cascade (cliche, I know), Hallertau, and Nugget. The only difficulty I’ve had so far is trying to keep our Beagle pup, Henry, from trampling the fledgling shoots. Do you grow your own hops? Do you have any pics?