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Guide for Growing Hops

Guide for Growing Hops

BUY BARE ROOT HOP PLANTS

Here is a small, simple step-by-step guide and a set of instructions to growing hops for decoration or home brewing:

1. Before you start growing your hop plants:

a. Check your site is not over exposed to wind

2. Check your soil is suitable to grow hops:

a. Hop plants require deep, rich soil, on a dry bottom, with a south or south-west aspect

b. Hops will grow perfectly on poor soil but to sustain plant growth, good soil moisture and fertility is essential

c. Your soil must be free from waterlog

3. Planting your hops:

a. Plant your hops as soon as you have received them to prevent the root from drying

b. Dig a hole deep enough to hold the roots so that the buds at the base of the stem can be covered with soil to protect them from frost

c. Once you have dug the hole, plant your hop. You will need to use water and a good quality mulched soil, or John Innes No3 compost to cover the roots and crown of the hop plant. Any stem and leaf growth should not be covered by the soil. (Each hop should be planted three to six feet apart).

d. We recommend providing your hop plant with support at this stage with hop string (coir). The hop string requires attaching to a hop screw peg in the ground to something approx. 15 - 20 feet from the ground.

4. Caring for your hop plants:

a. In the second year of growth, hops like fertilizer high in phosphorous and potassium in February. If the growth is poor in May, fertilize again with a light dose of nitrogen.

b. Hops are susceptible to mildews, aphids, and red spiders. These can be controlled with various garden sprays available from most garden centres.

c. Look out for greenfly! You may have to spray them with insecticide or soapy water. Failing this will turn your hop plants black and prevent flowering at harvest.

BUY BARE ROOT HOP PLANTS

Hop Varieties

Buy Bare Root Hop Plants

Our selection of hop plants are commercial varieties normally grown for brewing, except for GOLDEN TASSELS which is an ornamental variety grown specifically for its golden yellow foliage. The rhysomes are certified material from virus tested stock produced in England.

Each variety differs slightly in colour, shape & size, and aroma & alpha acid content (which is important for brewers).

All the varieties, except "Golden Tassels" produce a green flower cone in late summer and is an attractive climbing addition to any garden.

The best time to plant hops is during the winter months when the plant is dormant, but please be aware, hops need cold conditions in the winter, particularly Goldings and Bramling Cross otherwise they will not grow.

FUGGLE is one of the oldest available varieties, developed by the Reverend Richard Fuggles in 1856. This variety tends to crop more heavily towards the head of the plant and produces very large flowers sometimes referred to as banana hops. Fuggles are highly prized by traditional brewers and produce a light flavoured beer . The aroma is earthier and less sweet than Kent Goldings. It has been revered ever since as the classic aroma hop for British Bitters and Pale Ales, often used in combination with Goldings. Fuggles are also suitable for Porters and Stouts. The alpha acid content ranges from 3%-5.5%.

PHOENIX is an early flowering variety. It is heavily fruiting with a dark coloured stem. This variety tends to crop very evenly throughout the length of the plant and is a very pretty hop to look at. A dual purpose hop providing the brewing industry with a mild aroma and slightly spicy flavour. Alpha acid 9%-13%

TARGET is a mid to high alpha hop, bred from Kent Goldings in 70’s at Wye. Target has a red stem like Challenger but with a deeper green leaf. The cone is smaller but more abundant, with a higher alpha than Challenger. Very resistant to disease. Used in the production of good quality bitters and pale ales. Alpha acid 9.5%-12.5%

CHALLENGER Bred at Wye in 1972, Challenger is the granddaughter of Northern Brewer. A columnar hop, it is small and heavily fruiting with a dark coloured stem. This variety tends to crop fairly evenly throughout the length of the plant. Challenger is a dual purpose hop providing the brewing industry with an aroma and alpha acid hop suitable in both lagers and bitters. Challenger is the preferred hop for Bass Best Bitter. Alpha w/w6.5 - 8.5%<br>

GOLDINGS This is a group of traditional and very popular English aroma hops grown prior to 1790. Widely cultivated also in the U.S. They are called East Kent Goldings if grown in East Kent, Kent Goldings if grown in mid-Kent, and Goldings if grown elsewhere in the U.K. Goldings have a smooth, sweet flavour. Most types of Goldings will work in place of another (Whitbread Golding Variety for East Kent Goldings) Just to confuse you - do note that Styrian Goldings are not of this family.

Varieties of Goldings are as follows;

COBBS is an East Kent Golding variety producing small ‘pea hops’ which grow heavily towards the head of the plant. Favoured variety for producing typical English bitters.

REDSELLS EASTWELL is a Golding selection made at Tony Redsell's (a local grower) farm in 1988 when Wye College was trying to find Viroid free stock of all varieties. It is a true Kentish Eastwell Golding. Alpha acid of around 5% Probably one of the most vigorous and higher yielding Golding varieties. This hop flowers heavily and is a favoured variety for producing traditional English bitters with a typical English aroma.

EARLY BIRD is an early flowering variety , favoured for producing traditional English bitters. This variety was widely grown in the Canterbury area.

CALAIS GOLDING is a true Golding, almost identical to Early Bird but heavier yielding & early maturing.

BRAMLING CROSS is an aroma variety, also known as OPT48. A cross between the English Bramling Golding variety and an American male. The cones tend to be very round in shape and they have a very distinctive American aroma. Best suited to the darker stronger types of beers.

NORTHDOWN is is a dual purpose English hop developed in 1970s. It is a relative of Challenger & Target, has a mild flavour and aroma, and gives a pleasant bitterness. Well suited to heavier beers. Alpha acid 7.5%-9.5%

W.G.V. Whitbread Golding Variety is a slightly wilt tolerant Golding type, specifically selected by Whitbread for their use, it has the characteristics of both Fuggles and Goldings. It has a green stem with a light green leaf. The cones are slightly smaller than traditional Goldings. W.G.V. is usually used in combination with other types of hops. Bred in 1911 , it is not a true Golding but is not dissimilar, it is more robust with distinguishing sweet fruity note. Alpha acid 5.0%-8.0%

NORTHERN BREWER was developed in England in 1934 from a cross between a Canterbury Golding female plant and the male plant OB21. Grown in Europe and America as a dual-purpose hop, but mainly used for bittering in combination with other hops. Woody/earthy/fruity aroma and flavour. Alpha acid 8%-10%

PROGRESS was developed in the 60’s at Wye as a replacement to Fuggles. Similar to Fuggles however it has a degree of wilt tolerance. It has big, bold green cones, and combines fine aromas with good alpha acid content and is used together with Goldings to produce good class bitters and pale ales. Alpha acid 5%-7%

BREWERS GOLD is a bittering hop developed in 1919. It has a resiny, spicy aroma/flavor with hints of black currant.

CASCADE is used by American Microbrewers, these hops have a very high level of some of the essential oils. They have a distinct citrus/grapefruit aroma all of their own. Historically not widely used in the U.K., it is now being introduced into some English beers.

NUGGET is an american variety with a floral, resiny aroma, primarily a bittering hop

HALLERTAU isa german high alpha bittering hop

PERLE is a german dual purpose hop, spicey and slightly floral/fruity

SAAZ is a hop used extensively to flavor pale Czech lagers. Cinnamon-spicy, earthy

STYRIAN GOLDING is a Slovenian variant of Fuggles, but similar to East Kent Goldings. Used in English ales and Belgian strong ales amongst others. From eastern Europe.

CHINOOK another dual purpose hop, developed in 1985, but from NW USA this time. Chinook is a cross between the English variety Petham Golding with the attractively named male USDA 63012. The plant produces hops with high alpha but an aroma with a distinctive pine smell. This variety is widely used in American hoppy ales.

PRIMA DONNA (otherwise known as First Gold) This is a dwarf variety, designed to grow to a height of 2 meters in a hedgerow system. If left to its own devices this hop will ramble over a trellis like any other variety. Bred at Wye in the this is a plant at the cutting edge of hop breeding. Prima Donna is used to produce a traditional light bitter.

GOLDEN TASSELS is own only ornamental variety, grown mainly for its golden foliage and cones. It may grow to a height of 2m-3m.

BULLION This was an important variety in its day; developed in the 1940s it has been superseded by more modern high alpha hops. Bullion is a bittering hop with a strong blackcurrant aroma. Bullion was used in the production of stouts. Similar hops to this variety are: Brewers Gold, Chinook, Columbus, Galena.

GALENA A US hop variety developed by the department of agriculture, Idaho in 1978. This is a high alpha hop producing compact, medium sized cones.

MATHON An English aroma hop of the golding group. Origin Mathon in Worcestershire. This variety is vigorous, yielding high numbers of cones, however, it is susceptible to both downy and powdery mildew. This hop was used widely in traditional ales and late hopped lagers.

OMEGA A variety which includes Challenger in its parenting, is a high alpha hop developed at Wye College here in Kent. This variety never took off as it was too low yielding as well as being susceptible to a latent hop viroid which further reduced its popularity. The aroma content of the hop has been described by the experts as "pleasantly European in style".........whatever that means!

ZENITH Another Wye College creation from the 1970s, this is a dual purpose hop having good acids and strong aroma. Zenith produces good yields of hops and has some resistance to downy and powdery mildew. Could be substituted with Northern Brewer, Yeoman or Target. This variety can be used in all beer types from a lager to a stout.

Growing Hops

Grow your own piece of Kents farming heritage

hop arrangement

The hop is a perennial plant, which means once established, it will generate new growth every year. After harvest, the hop plant dies back and remains dormant during the winter months. This is the time it is best to plant the bare root/hop rhyzome. We normally have hop plants available from December through to May.

Growing your hop
Each hop plant is sent as a bare root rhzome wrapped in moss, it must be planted immediately. We supply an information sheet and are always available to answer your questions by email info@essentiallyhops.co.uk

All our bare root hop rhysomes are certified material from virus tested stock that is produced in a non hop growing part of the country. This is essential to make sure all new stock is clean and disease free. We expect delivery end Nov/early Dec, however this can change depending on the weather. Please read below for further information on varietal differences and go to bare root hop plants to see what varieties we currently have available.

The mature hop (Humulus Lupulus) has a large root system, capable of producing many growing shoots every year. Growth begins in April, and soon after we choose the best 2-4 shoots to train up each coir strings, to create our hop bines. This is called hop training. The hop plant takes at least two growing seasons to establish, the first year being devoted to the development of the root system so no training is required in the first year. At the longest day, the plant stops growing up, and starts to produce lateral shoots with burrs (tiny hop flowers). The better the training, the more productive and the more flowers it produces. A mature hop hill can reach 20 feet in height, but they usually only flower in the top 10 feet. The hop is dioecious, meaning the male and female flower components are borne on separate plants. It is the female plants that bear the flowers and these are the plants we sell (The absence of the male plants will not affect the production of flowers on the female).

Ordering
Order your hop plants online, telephone 01227 830666, or download our printable order form

A Year in the Life of a Hop Garden

We are traditional hop growers and this means performing a lot of processes by hand and many man-hours of backbreaking work! As you will read below the beautiful hop garlands and decorations that you enjoy are the result of some highly skilled handywork throughout the year in our hop garden, kiln and workshops:

January

The hop garden is checked to make sure the wirework and poles are fit for purpose. Any old or diseased hop plants are replaced during the winter months whilst the hops are dormant.

March

Growing hops is a hugely manually time consuming process and our season starts in earnest in March as we prepare for the new growth. The hop garden is strung using natural coir to create the framework for the hop bines to climb. Strings are woven up and down, hooking them through the screw peg on the ground and up to the top hook on the highest wires. This is achieved by hand, using a long pole called a ‘monkey’ to reach the top wirework, which is usually 5-6 meters from the ground.

April

The hop crown (root structure) starts to grow from about April as the temperature rises and the first shoots begin to appear. Mature hills (hop plants) throw the strongest shoots first but these are not necessarily the ones we need. Every hill can throw many many shoots, and as we only need 2-3 per string (3-4 strings rising from each hill) the excess shoots are pulled out from the ground by hand.

May

The chosen shoots need to be trained by hand onto each string a process also know as twiddling. It takes a team of eight people 2-4 days to train the whole garden, and this is repeated 3 times before the shoots get too high. A twiddling stick is required to reach the height of the growing tips. This is THE most important time of year for hop growers. Did you know that most climbing plants grow clockwise with the sun but the hop is the opposite, growing clockwise up a string As soon as Easter is over, our regular customers start placing their pre-orders for fresh hops for delivery in September!

June

As the weather warms, the hops grow up to 6 inches in a day in perfect conditions. We regularly walk the hop garden to check for pests, diseases or any bines that have come loose or detached from their strings. The hop bines will have normally reached their full height by the longest day (21st June).

July

As the days begin to shorten this stimulates lateral growth and the development of the burrs (soon to be flowers). At the end of July, these burrs begin to mature into the cones we recognize as the hop flower.

August & September

We let the hop cones mature for a further 3 weeks to create the vibrant garlands that we are famous for. This means that we usually start to harvest soon after the 20th of August. Commercial hop growers who supply the brewing trade are paid by weight so generally harvest a week or so later than we do. We harvest when the hop flowers are mature and will dry perfectly, which tends to be a little earlier. Harvesting late increases the risk of pests & disease, and petal drop when the garlands dry. Growing specifically for decoration means we need to harvest the whole bine as carefully as possible, to protect our valuable crop this means long days cutting each bine by hand for our harvesting teams. We carefully select each garland by hand, ready for packing immediately to send out to our customers fresh from the field or to load in our drying kilns.

About 50% of the bines we harvest are prepared for sale as fresh hop garlands through our farm shop and to fulfill on-line orders - these are dispatched on the same day they are picked for maximum freshness! The window for fresh hops is limited and we normally send out our last fresh garlands in the second week of September. The remaining bines are prepared for drying in our hop kilns a process that takes over 36 hours. The dried garlands are then carefully boxed and stored in our dry insulated barns ready for dispatch throughout the rest of the year.

October to December

Whilst the hops garlands may be safely dispatched or in storage, there is still plenty of work to be done in the hop garden! The hop plants need to be trimmed to ground level after the first frosts to prepare for winter. We use this time to re-energize the soil, replace any plant stocks, and overhaul the wirework and hop poles and framework ready for another year. In the workshop next to the farm shop we are busy making a full range of dried hop decorations ready for the busy Christmas period. Feel inspired?

Check out our extensive range of hops & related products and see our hops in action in the media.