Second Year Hop Harvest

IMG_3856Yesterday, I harvested the hops from my five plants in the backyard. I did so while I was mashing for a harvest ale, which used all of those hops. I’ll cover the brew day tomorrow, today I’m just writing about the actual harvest.

I ended up netting just under a pound of hops. Last year I got a little over two ounces, which was not a surprise. You shouldn’t expect to get any hops your first year, I still tried to do a harvest ale last year, but it didn’t go well. I’ll cover that soon. Here is how this year’s harvest broke down:IMG_3852
Cascade – 1.7 ouncesIMG_3864
Centennial – 7.2 ouncesIMG_3871
Mount Hood 1.7 ouncesIMG_3865
Nugget – 4.3 ouncesIMG_3878
Willamette – Didn’t weigh, only a few cones

Now, keep in mind that these are wet weights. Brewing is normally done with dried hops. About eighty percent of the weight of these hops is water. So divide those numbers by five to figure out how they relate to the dried hops you buy at the homebrew store. This is enough for a five gallon batch of beer, but that is it.

Conventional wisdom is that by the third year, hops have reached full maturity and by then you should be getting as much production as you ever will. I’ve heard different things about how to predict how much that will. Double what you got the second year seems like a popular prediction. I would be very happy to get two pounds next year. If the Centennial really doubles, I’d probably use them all for one batch and the rest for a different batch.

Anyway, the actual harvest is easy, but more time consuming than I expected. If you’re trying to figure out when it is time to harvest, you will need to look at and squeeze the hop cones. The color should be getting darker, the tips even turning brown. Squeezing them, they should feel papery and less full and springy. You should be able to smell that great hop aroma and see yellow resin under the pedals.

When you go to harvest them, they should pop right off. If they don’t want to come and jerk the bine around instead of popping loose, they are probably not ready. I think I harvested mine early last year. This year, they came off much easier.

I have not taken down the bines yet. I picked the cones with the bines still hanging. When I do cut them down, I’ll give them another once over to look for stragglers. If I find any I’ll throw them into a future batch, I doubt there will be enough to make any impact. It was tough to find all the cones because the bines are such a mess, though. Twine is not cutting it. it ripped and fell down continually. I will be installing a wooden trellis system before next year.

I’m very happy with the amount of hops I got this year. They smelled great while I was harvesting, hopefully that transfers to Moist, my harvest pale ale. Check back tomorrow for the recipe I used for this beer.

Oh, and as for the hops I planted at the cabin: I haven’t been there since Fourth of July weekend. My Dad was just there last weekend, I’m hoping he happened to see if there was anything there. Again, though I don’t expect any cones on the first year. If I can get some more Cascades next year to use in one of the Elkland Lagers, that would be awesome. Time will tell.







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