Unknown Hops

I have a neighbor who grows hops as a natural shade for their dog run and said that I could harvest them this fall. However they do not know what kind of Hops they are is there any way to identify them? Would anyone recommend using them at least from above the height of a raised dog leg?

I hope they’re aware that hops are toxic to dogs… probably not the best choice for providing shade.

There really isn’t a good way to ID hops visually. Your best bet is probably to make a tea from it and compare it to known varieties. There aren’t very many varieties of hops available for growing, so maybe start with a list of hop rhizomes that are available for purchase and go from there?

You can do a net search for pictures of hop varieties, and that can help. Different varieties have differences in foliage, as well as cone size and shape. But the differences are not always obvious.

Be beware that there are also ornamental hop varieties that have been bred specifically to look nice in a garden, and they might not give the best flavor in a beer. If they are wild hops, there is a decent chance that they are derived from Chinook, which was very widely grown in the US for many years. But in the end, you’ll just have to give them a try and see what they do in a beer.

It is true that hops are toxic to dogs, but they generally won’t eat them unless they have been soaked in sweet wort. It might be a good idea to harvest the cones to keep them out of reach of the dogs, but the risk is pretty low. I do know of one dog who ate some unused hops in a plastic bag, but that dog has learned that ziplocs often have food in them and steals plastic bags at every opportunity. Most cases of hop toxicity have been from hops thrown out to compost after brewing where the dogs could get to them. I have some hops growing in the backyard which are in reach of the dogs and they show no interest in eating them.