Archive for the ‘Grow Your Own’ Category

Grow Your Own

Thursday, October 15th, 2009

Apparently this is a series I’m starting. Remember though most of what I’m tossing out is theory that I’ve gained through research, and not first hand experience.

hopsHop Cultivars

As I stated in the first postof this series not all hops are created equal. Each hop cultivar has a unique set of properties depending on its chemical makeup. Cascade for example is a hop with citrus characters where as Northern Brewer has a pine like character. Also as I pointed out previously different cultivars produce different levels of bitterness due to alpha and beta acids. This can make choosing a cultivar a tough choice when weighing these options. To help I’ve taken the most common cultivars available to home growers and written a short description on each.

A quick google search on hop rhizomes produces some fairly consistent results in terms of availability, so while the list is far from complete It will give a basic rundown of varieties readily available.


Probably the most popular hop for homegrowers and extremely common in homebrew recipes. This variety is a dual purpose hop and usually produces a high yield of cones with alpha acids ranging from 5%-7%. Cascade is fairly disease resistant but is prone to pests such as mites and aphids. The aroma is floral and citrus and the flavor is generally described as citrus. It is used primarily in heavily hopped American ales. Cones stored below freezing will generally degrade by half over a six month time period.


Doesn’t grow well in moist climate. Chinook is a bittering hop with a alpha acid value between 11%-13%. Chinooks are fairly sturdy plants, but can be susceptible to spider mites. It is a sturdy cultivar and can produce abundant hops. It is generally described as having a spicy, piney aroma. Hops store well with only 15% degradation over 6 months at below freezing temps.


Fuggles grows well in damp climates, but excessively hot and dry ones can cause issues. An aroma hop with a moderate yield and alpha acids ranging 3%-5%. Often described as woody and fruity. This cultivar holds up well and isn’t especially susceptible to mildew or insects. A hop typically found in English ales.


Another English ale hop. Goldings usually are 4%-5% alpha acid and grow well in most climates. Strong resiny character and floral. Goldings are an aroma hop and produce a delicate cone that requires some care when handling. This cultivar is very sensitive to mildew and hop mosaic virus. Goldings can store well at below freezing temperatures.


A very sensitive German variety that is susceptible to a host of maladies. Hallertau is an aroma hop commonly found in traditional German lagers. It grows well in moister climates, and the difficulty it can have is offset by the availability of the hop commercially. Low to moderate yields. degrades about %50 in cold storage over 6 months

Mt Hood

Described as the American cousin of Hallertau. Mt Hood produces a higher yield and is less susceptible to health issues then Hallertau. This is offset by it being more pungent and a dual purpose hop with moderate alpha acids typically in the 5%-8% range. Experiences similar storeablility as the Hallertau. Use is similar to Hallertau.


A bittering hop with a 12%-14% alpha acid range. Nugget is fairly robust, but is sensitive to spider mites. The aroma is described as very strong herbal. Yield is high and the hops store extremely well.


Can be susceptible to virus under certain conditions, but grows well in cooler conditions. A noble hop with spicy aroma and an earthy flavor. Alpha acid range is 3%-4% and storability can be poor. Yield is also low to moderate. Great traditional hop for lagers.


Another great hop for lagers. Tettnang is similar in yield and storability to other German aroma hops. Tettnang is very susceptible to insects. It is herbal with some slight spicyness. Alpha acids are between 4%-5%.


Very similar to Fuggle, but more susceptible to Verticillium wilt and powdery mildew. Moderate to high yields, moderate storability, and 4%-6% alpha acid. Willamette works well in English and American ales. It is often described as having a floral fruity aroma.

Grow Your Own

Wednesday, October 14th, 2009

from theweeklybrew

I’ve received some questions both in the comments, and during the course of homebrewing discussions lately about growing hops. All this seems to stem from the fact I picked, dried, and used homegrown hops this year. First off let me say I have no experience in growing hops. While I do garden, and use my own homegrown herbs, vegetables, and fruits for brewing, the herb Humulus lupulus (hops) has never been seen in my garden. So most of what I’m tossing out is theory that I’ve gained through research, and not first hand experience.

Picking A Variety

Picture borrowed from KalamaBrew

Picture borrowed from KalamaBrew

When growing hops the first thing to consider is variety. I can’t count the times I’ve come across a forum where some guy used a variety of hops once, liked it, planted 3 vines, and is now trying to sell 90% of his crop because he has more then he can use and doesn’t brew with that cultivar often. Considerations that need to be made are space available, what you brew most often, availability of certain hops, and how often you brew. Soil conditions and climate play a big part in hop growing as well, and while soil conditions can be improved climate can’t.

If someone is new to homebrewing the first thing they need to realize is that not all hops are created equal. Different hops have not only different flavors, but also different amounts of alpha acids. Alpha acids are generally used to determine the bittering properties of a hop. All hops however can be used for bittering, it’s just a simple matter of volume. The lower the alpha acids the more hops are needed. If you only plan on planting one or two varieties of hops then this needs to come under consideration. Hops for brewing tend to be grouped in three basic categories. While these categories are outdated and tell you minimal information they help get a basic idea of what you may be looking for.

Bittering Hops – High bittering properties

Aroma Hops – Low bittering properties but highly desirable aroma properties

Dual Purpose – Moderate bittering properties and some desirable aroma properties

For people growing few vines a dual purpose hop may be best since it will provide aroma, flavor, and bitterness. For people who want to maintain a good variety of hops used, but also plan on growing few vines then growing bittering hops and purchasing aroma might be a way to go. Also, if you happen to enjoy brewing with a particularly difficult to obtain variety then you may want to consider growing that particular variety. More important then the hops alpha acids though is the beer your brewing. If your brewing European style lagers, then Noble varieties would be better suited then a hop such as Cascade or Amarillo.

Another consideration is growability. Just like with all plants certain cultivars of hops behave differently. Northdown (a dual purpose hop from the 70’s)  for example is resistant to downy mildew, but a variety like Cluster is extremely susceptible to it. Hops that are less disease resistant require more care then more resistant varieties. Also hops are a climbing vine and need somewhere to go. While they can be trained on a lattice and therefore don’t have to have lot’s of room to grow upwards. However, vine harvesting is easier with the system used commercially, and that method requires lot of height for the wire and string method. If height is going to be an issue when growing, then you may want to look into dwarf varieties that only grow 10-12 ft.

Sometime this week I’ll try to get a post on hop profiles up.