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Question on Varieties

Dumb question but here goes. A friend of mine lives on a farm and has been thinking about planting a ‘test bed’ of sorts with hops. He’s thinking 40 or 50 plants. He’s already got a marine construction friend that’s going to supply all the timber and guide wires and such, but I’m trying to help him make a decision on variety. I think he’d like to sell to local brewers as provide wet and dry hops to the local brewpubs and maybe expand later to catch the attention of some of the brewery start ups from DC, Alexandria VA etc…

Anyway, I’m thinking Cascades because they grow well here and produce quite a bit. Maybe Nugget and Centennial… I figured he could just start with 3 varieties or something. Anyone got any advice on what he should plant to garner attention from the small brewery and brew pub types?

You almost can’t go wrong with any hop variety that starts with C (exceptions might be Cluster and Challenger). If you can get your hands on some Citra rhizomes, I am certain that those are going to continue to be a HUGELY popular variety, just as much as Cascade has been for >10 years, and Centennial for almost that long. Any of those three will be great. I also love Columbus and they are also good producers like the other C hops.

“c” hops and clean bittering/high alpha hops would be a good choice too, then maybe toss in a couple other varieties for a fresh lookout.

We demand pictures of the build!

The whole venture can be quite costly, depending on how deep you want to go with it. I’d first start with talking to the local brewers and tell them what you have planned. They’ll certainly give you suggestions on what they’d like to see you produce and may even be able to offer some sort of support with your effort if you have a solid plan. Publicity about anything ‘local’ goes a long way with these types of projects so do a little research and I think you’ll get a lot of answers to your question. You may even be surprised! Best wishes on your project!

One route to look into is the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) model, where people commit money up front and get a share of whatever is harvested. I know someone who was on an organizing committee for one once that did the usual tomatoes and squash and other vegetables, but it seems like it might work for hops instead. It was a fair amount of work to get it organized, but after a couple of years they had a pretty long waiting list.

It would probably require a fair amount of outreach to clubs and possibly stores to find subscribers. On the other hand, I would also bet there’s a pretty strong interest in the DIY aspect – a lot of veggie CSAs offer discounts in exchange for labor, and I wouldn’t be surprised if people who brew would want to get involved in building structures, harvesting, etc. And if there was a subscriber base, they could help determine the varieties and quantities that get planted.

One of the pains of organizing a vegetable CSAs is distribution, but an annual harvest of hops would probably be a lot easier – people might even be willing to come all the way to the farm for a pick up. I’m sure there are a lot of complications I’m not thinking of, but it’s worth thinking about.

solomon,

Here’s some more good info. put together from MSU. http://hops.msu.edu/getting_started/ Lots of things to think about. Hop ON!

Thanks so much for all the replies! Sorry I’m late with a second post. My friend decided on 40 rhizomes as a sort of test bed in one of the back fields of his farm. His selection goes as follows:

10 Cascade
10 Columbus
10 Willamette
5 Chinook
5 Mt Hood

We’re still working on the details of the framework for the mini hop field, but thanks so much for the suggestions on varieties and links to info on hop farming.

Like I said in my prior post, a friend runs a marine construction company so what would be the most costly part of this project (the framework/posts/lines etc) is going to be free. It’s just the couple hundred dollar cost of rhizomes and miscellaneous other costs (and of course all the manual labor work!). We’re thinking of incorporating some boat trailer winches/galvanized blocks so that we can lower 5 to 10 plants or separate varieties at a time to harvest by hand this first year, and then winch them back up. I noticed from my own first year plants that the hops don’t always come ripe at the same time in the beginning stages of life.

We also have a hookup for free truckloads of compost that will come into play when we plant the rhizomes. There’s a guy in the area that has some compost piles so big, he turns them with a bulldozer ha…

Again, thanks for all the info and I’ll keep you guys informed on how the experiment progresses.

eta: some of the other links we are looking at just for the hell of it here-

http://www.thehopfarmer.com - hop farmers in Maine http://www.AmericanHopMuseum.com http://ncalternativecropsandorganics.blogspot.com/ - Also nice article about SN maybe putting their east coast brewery in NC.

quite a bit of info here, not pertaining to us per say…

http://mysare.sare.org/mySARE/ProjectRe ... y=2010&t=0

I’ll second that thought even though you’ve already chosen your hops. A local brewer in my area poo-pooed Cascade when answering what local hops he’d choose to use. This surprised me but his suggestion to consult your potential market makes sense. You’ll have at least a year or two to line up buyers before production ramps up. What are your plans for harvesting, drying, and packaging your product?

Harvesting will be done by hand I’m sure the first year or two.

This website

http://stillpointfarming.com/hops

shows a really neat homemade hop separator.

Drying will probably be done in the barns on big screens, if and when we dry them. As far as packaging them, I’m assuming for now, if we get off the ground and working with the local brew pub, that a trash bag would suffice ha…

My suggestion would be to look hard at the short-trellis varieties. They are becoming quite popular and would be a whole lot easier to deal with since you are talking about 10’ rather than 20’. I think thats the way of the future for hop growing.

http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/pr/2008/080110.htm http://www.hopsfromengland.com/Technology.htm

Chewck out the wiki link for hop varieties, there are some listed as dwarfs. I love First Gold, Summit is another dwarf. Not sure any dwarf rhizomes are available yet.

[quote=“tom sawyer”]

Chewck out the wiki link for hop varieties, there are some listed as dwarfs. I love First Gold, Summit is another dwarf. Not sure any dwarf rhizomes are available yet.[/quote]

Dwarf varieties that I am aware of include the 2 you mention (Summit is ‘semi-dwarf’, growing to 14-16 feet if allowed) and newer varieties from the UK, all of which got their dwarf character from the same wild American germplasm as First Gold: the half-sisters Herald and Pioneer, their niece Boadicea, Pioneer’s daughter Pilot and granddaughter Sovereign, and Pioneer’s great-niece Endeavour. As far as I can tell, YOU can’t grow any of them.

[quote=“worthog”][quote=“tom sawyer”]

Chewck out the wiki link for hop varieties, there are some listed as dwarfs. I love First Gold, Summit is another dwarf. Not sure any dwarf rhizomes are available yet.[/quote]

Dwarf varieties that I am aware of include the 2 you mention (Summit is ‘semi-dwarf’, growing to 14-16 feet if allowed) and newer varieties from the UK, all of which got their dwarf character from the same wild American germplasm as First Gold: the half-sisters Herald and Pioneer, their niece Boadicea, Pioneer’s daughter Pilot and granddaughter Soverign, and Pioneer’s great-niece Endeavour. As far as I can tell, YOU can’t grow any of them.[/quote]

This year I saw summit rhizomes listed for sale by a shop in Portland.

Willamette Valley Hops had them for sale, but it was a mistake

. The patent doesn’t run out for at least another dozen years. I do know there’s a new-ish grower in MI who licensed the variety from the inventor and planted them this year (http://www.newmissionorganics.com/).

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