Thursday, July 7, 2016

About the Hops in My Garden

Hop bines along our backyard fence.

A Colorado Garden of Sins...

This is what the fence surrounding our vegetable garden looks like, two years after our son slipped four young hop varieties into its perimeter. He never asked permission, of course, because he knew what the answer would be, given that hops require 18 foot trellises.

This son loves both gardening and brewing, and he had successfully foraged wild hops growing along a bike path here in Boulder the year he started these hops.

This summer was the second year for the hop bines, and they are producing nicely. So far, the twine angled horizontally and upward along the fence has mostly supported them. But you know the saying about vines, “The first year they sleep, the second year they creep, and the third year they leap!” So I’m more concerned about next year.

Our son will use these hops to make some home brew, and he’s done some bartering with them on Craig’s List, too, where he said they were quite the hot item. In fact, he makes more than home brew. He’s been a professional brewer at our wonderful local craft brewery, Avery, and he makes beer for special occasions like friend’s weddings and football games.

Hops drying.

Hoppy beers like the IPAs, or India Pale Ales are unique in taste. There are many hundreds of varieties of hops and they vary in flavor. Their bitterness counteracts the sweetness from the malt in the beer. They also have anti-microbial properties that are desirable for the brewing process.

Hops closer up.

The state of Washington produces nearly 80 percent of the hops in the U.S., which is 25 percent of world production. Oregon and Idaho are the next largest hop producing states. In general, the U.S. uses more hops in beers produced here than does the rest of the world.

Now, back to the subject of sins in the garden. My son has provided much of the information about hops that I’ve written above. As we were just visiting out back while he was plucking more hops off of his bines (hop vines are referred to as bines, this is not a misspelling) for the next round of drying, he handed me a part of the hop plant which he said is the reason that it (Humulus) is classified with Cannabis plants. They, in fact, share a number of characteristics, like they both contain terpenoids. Now, I’m not saying that we have both of these sins in our garden, but neither am I saying that we don’t.

Stay tuned, because in the next of our home garden series, I’ll talk about what his friend planted in the back of our garden next to the rhubarb, without our permission.