Another Great Hop Harvest!

Cascade HopsWow – year after year it keeps getting better.  I planted these rhizomes in the spring of 2009 and had a meager harvest that fall.  Pretty much as expected.  Last year they did pretty well – I took 3 harvests from them.  The first harvest was early and harsh.  They were starting to be infected with some kind of wilt and also with whitefly.  I cut them all the way back to the ground – except for a couple of new shoots that had recently emerged. I don’t Cascade Hops recall how much I got, but enough to brew a batch or two of beer.

The new shoots grew like crazy – back up to the roof in just a few weeks. Then I picked off a 2nd harvest leaving the bines in place to grow more hop cones.  That harvest turned into a homesteading failure… I had the hops in my high tech drier, but I was not diligent in giving them the occasional shake, and I probably had too many hop cones in each bag. Tragically – they molded.

The 3rd harvest was another good one.  I dried them properly, bagged ’em, froze ’em and brewed with them throughout the year – just ran out a few months ago.

This year the cascades are doing really well. The nuggets – not so much. In prior years I had just looped some lengths of coir twine around the chimney.  Each rhizome got 2 paths to grow.  This year I put a 14 foot bamboo pole behind the chimney. Then I added more coir trellising up to the roof to give them more space to grow.  You may be able to see in the 2nd picture that the cascades have 4 pairs of coir rope to climb. They hit the roof and still wanted more vertical space. Time to harvest.

Now… to this season’s first harvest. The cones are beautiful and fragrant and huge. I got just over 3 pounds wet. I put about 1/2 pound each into 6 brown paper bags, rolled the tops over and put them in the car. There the heat is enough to help them dry quickly, but not so hot that the aromatics are all released. (And it does smell pretty wonderful in the car.) After 1 week they’ve dried to the point that the stems are quite brittle – they’ll snap instead of bending.

The 3 lbs wet dried to 9 ounces. One ounce of dried hop cones will fit (with some convincing) into a 1 qt ziploc freezer bag. Your hands will wind up with some of the yellow lupulin sacs on them and will smell like pure hop oil. When all the air is squeezed out and the bags are sealed with tape, they are very flat – less than 1/2 inch thick – and can be put in a paper bag (or something that will block light) and then into the freezer to slow oxidation. Time to brew!!!

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