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Nov 14, 2018







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The Canterbury Aleworks hop yard in June 2016. Photo by Ryan Lessard.




Get involved

The best thing about hops is just about anyone with some land can grow them. For one thing, since hops grow vertically or in any direction the bines are trained to go, they don’t require as much surface area as grain. 
“Hops are pretty easy to grow. They’re essentially a weed. All you need is well-drained soil, good exposure to the sun and a little bit of room to grow things vertically and you can grow hops,” Bingel said.
To start off, you need to get your hands on some rhizomes. If you know someone who grows hops, you can ask them to share a few from their own garden. Rhizomes can also be ordered online for $2 to $4 apiece from out-of-state farms. Suppliers include Gorst Valley Hops in Wisconsin, Great Lakes Hops in Michigan, Aroostook Hops in Westfield, Maine, and The Hop Yard in Portland, Maine.
Candia Road Brewing sells home-brewing supplies and often has a sort of trading library for rhizomes so growers can try varieties they don’t have yet.
“You dig a shallow hole, they don’t have to be super deep,” Hauptly-Pierce said. “They like water but they don’t like to swim in it.”
Then you’ve got to make sure there is some kind of apparatus for the bines to climb up, like a trellis, archway or pergola. Hauptly-Pierce has a post in the ground next to his house and hooks in his eave that he weaves twine through. He said the twine should have enough nap to it so that the bine has something to grab onto.
Given the right conditions, hops will grow fast. At their peak, Bingel said, they can grow as much as six or eight inches per day.
Come winter, the bines die off and you have to trim them to make room for next season. But the root structure remains alive. In fact, the roots grow so rapidly Bingel said he has to dig the plant up every year to cull the roots, which leaves him with additional rhizomes he can share with his friends. He said he’s probably shared hundreds of rhizomes over the past several years that have since become hop gardens across the state.
The biggest culprits for hurting hops are downy mildew and Japanese beetles. If spring is too damp and warm, mildew is more likely. In lieu of pesticides, you can try having chickens roam the ground beneath your hops so they eat the beetles, but you want to make sure they can’t reach the hop cones themselves. 
 
Hops resources
For buying hops: buyhoprhizomes.com, freshops.com, thehopyard.com, aroostookhops.com, gorstvalleyhops.com, greatlakeshops.com
Learn more: northeasthopalliance.org, uvm.edu/extension/cropsoil/hops, madisoncountycce.org/agriculture/hops-program
 
Hop varieties
Aroma
It’s not always about being the most bitter beer. There are countless varieties of beer; some are dark and chocolaty, others are light and citrusy. Having the right kind of hop can provide you with certain smokey, floral or fruity aromas.
 
Cascade 
Columbia 
Crystal 
East Kent Golding  
Fuggle 
Glacier 
Hall. Gold  
Hall. Mittelfruh 
Hall. Tradition 
Late Cluster 
Liberty 
Mt. Hood 
Perle  
Saazer 
Saazer 36 
Spalter  
Sterling  
Teamaker  
Tolhurst 
TriplePearl 
Tettnanger 
Vanguard 
Willamette 
 
Bittering
Since beer, like wine, is made from fermenting sugars from a plant (in this case grains), the end result would be very sweet if it was not balanced by a bitter ingredient. For many beer enthusiasts, bitter is better and how a hop’s unique characteristics lend a beer a certain kind of bitterness can make or break a beer. 
 
Brewer’s Gold 
Bullion 
Centennial 
Chinook  
Comet 
Galena   
Hall. Magnum 
Horizon 
Newport  
Northern Brewer  
Nugget 
Olympic  
 
Source: Northeast Hop Alliance
 
Steve’s Heirloom Finds
Steve Allman at Canterbury Aleworks found three local varieties growing wild and gave them each names: 
Bard, found in Canterbury
Barnstead, found in Barnstead
Bumfaggon, found in Loudon
But he hasn’t been able to use them in a brew yet. That’s because every brewer must adjust their recipes to the specific lab results of a particular crop of hops, even with familiar varieties. A Centennial crop one year can have a certain alpha acid percentage while the same variety could be different the next year, and that will determine how many hops will be needed in the boil.
Here are the lab results for Allman’s heirloom hops.
 




Grow Your Beer
The history of hops and how to cultivate your own

03/02/17
By Ryan Lessard news@hippopress.com



 Increasingly, beer brewers, homebrewers and farmers in New Hampshire are getting their hands dirty by cultivating hops to be used in locally made brews. 

“What we’d like to see is a hop greenery of New Hampshire going on, both on the private side, with people having it in their gardens, and on the professional side with breweries interested in growing some of their own hops,” said Berthold “Bert” Bingel, owner of Bert’s Better Beers in Hooksett. “I think that’s one of these things that’s going to be growing over the next few years in New Hampshire, people growing their own hops or at least growing hops in order to supplement what they have to buy on the open market.”
A critical ingredient in modern beer, the hop plant was once a cash crop for New England farmers but for the past 150 years has been largely absent from the state’s agricultural scene. Now, it’s making a resurgence thanks to the growing popularity of craft beer, homebrewing and the local food movement.
 
Hops: a primer
The hop plant (humulus lupulus) is a native of Europe imported to the U.S. during colonial times. It grows as vines known as bines from pencil-sized roots called rhizomes. It’s easier to clone the females of the plant by cutting off root stems than it is to propagate the species by seed. Growers can also buy crowns, which are already-planted rhizomes. After about three years, the bines mature enough to grow a good harvest of hops, which are green cones that can be used to essentially season beer. Each winter, the bines die off and are chopped down while the perennial roots hibernate, to grow new bines the following spring.
The beer making process begins with steeping grains in hot water where enzymes are deployed to break down the starches into simple sugars in a process called mashing. When that’s done, the sugar-filled liquid, called the wort, is boiled and sanitized before it can begin the fermentation process. It’s during that boil that a brewer will add hops. 
A beer’s relative hoppiness is an expression of how much hop flavor (both its bitterness and aroma) is conveyed.
Some hops are selected for their bitterness, others for their aromatic qualities. The relative bitterness of a hop can be measured by its percentage of alpha acids. The Chinook variety, for instance, has a high alpha acid range usually, which makes it ideal for bittering, while Citra is good for adding more fruity notes.
Michael Hauptly-Pierce at Litherman’s Limited Brewery in Concord said many varieties serve both purposes, and another: acting as a natural preservative.
“The hops play a couple of different roles in beer. The oldest one … would be as an antibacterial agent in the beer, preventing spoilage from pathogens. At the same time, [they’re] offsetting the sweetness of the malt to sort of balance the flavor out,” Hauptly-Pierce said.
The key ingredient needed from hops is the yellow powder called lupulin, according to Thom Neel, brewer at Candia Road Brewing Co. in Manchester. 
“The lupulin powder is what gives you that flavor and aroma,” Neel said.
As with grapes for wine, some folks believe the soil in which hops are grown affects the flavor and characteristics of the plant significantly, a concept called terroir. The terroir of hops in Canterbury can be vastly different than that in Oregon, according to Canterbury Aleworks owner Steve Allman. But this is a matter of some debate; others are skeptical that the difference is all that noticeable.
In order to prolong shelf life, hops are dried with a device called an oast, which is similar to a food dehydrator. It can range in size from a stack of drawers to a full room. Allman said you can also get by with a jury-rigged system involving a window screen and an electric heater. 
But large-scale harvesting and pelletizing requires agricultural equipment that isn’t easily available in the region. No one seems to own a pelletizer in the state. The closest pelletizer is likely at Aroostook Hops in Westfield, Maine, which bought it last year and is not ready to sell its service to other growers yet. (A group of people started an Indiegogo campaign to try to start a hop processing facility in the state in 2014 but failed to reach their fundraising goal.)
Allman noted a harvester based in Vermont, Mike Noyes of Wicked Bines Farm, who can bring his equipment to a local hop farm. 
 
Hop history
Rich Stadnik, owner of Pup’s Cider Co. and Houndstooth Brewing Co. in Greenfield, has done some research on the history of hop-growing in New England. He said the plant first arrived from England on ships and it was planted in central Massachusetts (places like Groton and Fitchburg) and the Merrimack Valley area of present-day New Hampshire. 
“It just became the hot crop for a while that everybody was growing,” Stadnik said.
The first hop yard in Greenfield was planted in 1791, according to Stadnik. He said much of the hop farming at the time could be traced along present-day Route 101 from the Wilton and Lyndeborough area up through Greenfield to Bedford and maybe a bit in Merrimack.
“I found that, in Bedford, there was a major hops growing area there as well,” Stadnik said.
In fact, both Bedford’s and Greenfield’s records boast having the largest hop growing operations in the state.
According to the book The History of the Town of Lyndeborough, New Hampshire by Dennis Donovan and Jacob Andrews Woodward, there were many hop yards in town up to about 1860.
A hill that had later come to be known as Hop-Yard Hill had a hop yard on both sides. One was operated by Deacon William Jones (1789 - 1865), who was said to have grown hops extensively. He had a hop press on his property that was later demolished.
In the late 18th century, it made good economic sense to grow hops in New England.
“Hops were commanding really good money on the boat to England, even though they were crap hops. By England’s definition, they really stank,” Stadnik said.
For the most part, Stadnik said, American hops exported to English breweries were used early in the boil so their flavor wouldn’t be conveyed as heavily. 
By the 1830s and 1840s, Stadnik said, the market began to be flooded by local hop growers and the price began to nosedive. Soon after, the farms moved westward, where land was cheaper and more vast and the soil was better. 
They appeared in upstate New York, then in midwestern states like Nebraska and Kansas, until finally settling on the West Coast.
By the late 19th century, Britain was using between 25 and 50 percent American hops in its brews, most of which came from California and Oregon.
In 2016, 75 percent of the hop production in the U.S. happened in Washington, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Erik Wochholz, a historian at the Strawbery Banke Museum in Portsmouth, said hop growing in the seacoast area happened in smaller operations, mostly centered around a brewery run by Frank Jones in the 19th century.
Today, you can find wild hops all over, including on Appledore Island. The Strawbery Banke Museum operates a hop garden to show how it was used for medicinal purposes and about 50 to 100 hop plants are growing in the Thomas Bailey Aldrich Memorial Garden. The cones are for local brewers to make historical cask brews like lemongrass, sage or elderberry beers. 
Rhizomes will be donated to hop farmers, Wochholz said.
The first hops to be cultivated in Europe are called Noble hops today. They include varieties like Hallertauer, named after the global center of hop production, Hallertau, Germany. 
 
Hop yards
Throwback Brewery in North Hampton, Tuckerman Brewing Co. in Conway, Canterbury Aleworks in Canterbury and The Flying Goose Brew Pub & Grille in New London all have hop yards on their properties.
Throwback, which will be enjoying its first full harvest this spring, has about 500 hop plants in a half-acre yard. Flying Goose has more than 100 hop plants in about a quarter of an acre, and Tuckerman Brewing planted between 150 and 200 hop plants in a roughly quarter-acre yard. 
According to the Northeast Hops Alliance, a nonprofit membership organization based in Madison County, New York, that is pushing for more hop growers in the Northeast, there are seven members in New Hampshire, four of whom joined in 2016. They include a couple breweries (one is Throwback) and a few homebrewers growing 40 to 60 plants in 1/20 of an acre. 
Canterbury Aleworks has about three quarters of an acre growing about 180 hop plants (double spaced).
“I think most of the growing in New Hampshire is just on the sort of postage stamp acre operations,” said Allman. 
He said there are a number of benefits for brewers to grow their own hops.
“It’s part of agro-tourism, it’s part of the destination concept, it’s part of how to get different flavors. It’s how to get control of that particular ingredient a little bit more, which can be pretty volatile in the open market,” Allman said.
With few exceptions, locally harvested hops would be used mostly for so-called wet hop or whole hop brews, which incorporates whole hop cones, freshly harvested. 
A wet hop ale, unlike beer made from commercially available dried and pelletized hops, is old-school and only available as a short-lived seasonal special.
“We had really nice, juicy, round stone-fruity flavors in our wet-hopped IPA last fall. People were digging that. And that was just a mix of different things we pulled out of the yard,” Allman said.
While the number of hop yards in the state is growing and existing yards are gradually expanding in size, there are still not enough to accommodate the regular demand of a larger-scale brewer like Smuttynose Brewing in Hampton (Allman estimates they would burn through the entire New England supply in just two months), but microscopic operations like Allman’s, which uses a single-barrel system, can soon get by using just his own hops if he wanted to, assuming he has a good harvest. He would still import some hops for certain recipes that call for hop varieties he doesn’t have. But after using what he has, he could ideally sell the surplus to another local brewery interested in local ingredients. 
“That’s always going to be a value as far as that goes because the locavore movement is very big. People are very interested in [local sourcing] on all levels,” Bingel said.
Rick Marley, the brew master (or braumeister, as he prefers to be called) at Flying Goose, said the brewery crowdsources its harvesting by hosting a hop harvest party around late August or early September. The brewery supplies a feast of sandwiches and beer, and families can bring their children to help hand-pick the hops from the long bines. 
“They kinda look like dancing hula ladies when the wind blows,” Marley said of the full-grown bines.
Marley then takes the hops and produces a beer called the Full Blown Home Grown, which uses all local malts and hops.
“Last year’s iteration was kind of a light pub-style wheat ale,” Marley said.
While most commercial hop growers are local breweries, some local farmers are starting to grow the crop and sell it to interested brewers. 
Julion Parker, a farmer getting started at Millcreek Dairy in Chester, was originally planning to grow blueberries. But after some research, he decided to start growing hops instead. 
“Generally, if you can grow them, you can sell them,” Parker said. “A lot of brewers are very interested in buying hops locally in the Northeast region.”
So far, Parker has ordered about 80 plants for just over a quarter of an acre, but eventually he hopes to fill out the plot with about 150 to 200 plants. He will start planting them this spring. 
In the long run, after Parker moves on from his incubator program at Millcreek, he hopes to buy upward of 100 acres of his own farm and dedicate three acres to hop-growing.
Annette Lee at Throwback said growing their own hops and buying hops from local growers such as Aroostook Hops in Maine is part of their company’s ethos, which celebrates the history of farm-to-beer brewing.
“That’s what we’re all about here at Throwback,” Lee said. “Our name comes from sort of this nod to pre-Prohibition brewing where brewers used what was around them to make their beer.”
Each hop yard involves erecting tall posts, often 16 feet tall with rows of strings for the bines to grow along. Lee said to build a hop yard of any significant scale, one should be prepared to make a big up-front investment. She said for each acre of standard hop yard (rows are usually spaced 36 inches apart) it costs about $10,000 worth of trellis materials and land preparation. 
It’s not likely that a brewery, however focused it is on local sourcing, will completely forego importing some varieties of hops. Primarily, that’s because recipes may call for varieties that are proprietary brands such as Citra, Simcoe and Amarillo. No one is allowed to grow those in New Hampshire since out-of-state companies own the rights to the plant’s genome.
Still, it takes a lot of hops to brew beer, so the state’s “postage stamp” hop yards can be quickly depleted. 
Marley said he harvested 58 pounds of hops from his yard last year, enough to brew one batch of beer, which was seven barrels or 217 gallons.
Hauptly-Pierce made a tinier run of beer from the 40 ounces of hops he collected from his home garden.
“It was enough to do about five gallons of an IPA, as a dry hop,” Hauptly-Pierce said.
Allman said different beers require different amounts of hops.
“A German pilsener, you might be using anywhere from a quarter or maybe a half a pound [of hops] per barrel, per 31 gallons of beer. On the other hand, for a big, super-crazy IPA, you might be using three or more pounds per barrel of beer,” Allman said.
And different varieties of hops yield better harvests than others. It’s been Allman’s experience that a Hallertauer plant will get him about 1.5 pounds of hops, whereas Cascade will yield 2.5 to 3 pounds.
Hop hobbyists 
On the smaller scale, brewers, home brewers, gardeners and other hobbyists have taken to planting hops on their home properties.
“I’ve been involved in growing hops now for about 15 years. I started off growing just a couple of styles, particularly Hallertauer, in my backyard,” Bingel said. “It was very successful. It took about three years but then I started getting more hops than I knew what to do with.”
He’s had his hops used in some locally made beers such as Brother Berthold (named after Bingel) by Swift Current Brewing Co. in Manchester. He thinks one of the best-performing hop plants on his property is a Willamette.
Bingel planted his rhizomes at the base of his patio and trained them to grow up and over as a canopy. Originally, he got into it for his own home-brewing hobby.
“I do a lot of freestyle brewing [with] whatever I have on hand,” Bingel said. “Just see what comes out. But that’s half the fun of it, just experimenting.”
Using a mix of different hop varieties in a brew is more the rule than the exception for commercially available beer, he said. The same is often true with home brews.
Hauptly-Pierce started with some rhizomes from Bingley and now has 10 hop plants growing at his Manchester home. 
Tom Albright, the owner of Out.Haus Ales in Northwood, grows 11 hop plants (10 varieties) on his home property. He used the hops in 2014 to create his first New Hampshire Harvest ale.
Rouleen Williams of Salisbury is no brewer, but she loves craft beer. Williams grows 32 plants across eight varieties in a 1/8-acre plot.
“Brewers Gold and Nugget are the heaviest producers,” Williams said.
Williams, who has a background in farming, went a bit further than most home gardeners by building an eight-row trellis from small trees she cut down from the woods on her property. She has an irrigation system and experimented with chickens to protect her plants from Japanese beetles. That lasted a few years until local predators starting eating the chickens.
“I used a tomato cage around each plant to get it started,” Williams said.
She has shared her hops with local brewers in the past. One such brewer is Thom Neel at Candia Road Brewing Co. Combining them with the harvest from 60 Chinook bines at his home, Neel makes a New Hampshire Harvest ale using most of Williams’ hops, which totals about 20 to 30 pounds.
“It’s an American pale ale made exclusively with New Hampshire-grown hops,” Neel said.
He adapts the recipe to whatever hop varieties are available each year. And Williams said it sells out within weeks.
“It’s really fun to have a product that’s grown right in New Hampshire and have it be turned into beer that’s consumed in New Hampshire. It’s really very gratifying,” Williams said.
 
Hop hunters
A lot of local hop growers are in search of the holy grail of hops — a “holdout from days of yore,” as Allman calls it.
Since hops are such a tenacious species of plant, even farmland that cleared away the crop still has remnants to this day.
“If you go to Strawbery Banke, there’s hop vines there from like a hundred years ago,” Annette Lee at Throwback said. “You can find them. I’ve seen them on the roadsides.”
Lee also had some wild hops growing in her old backyard in Rye. 
For folks like Allman, Marley and Stadnik, half the fun of growing hops is trying to discover a new local species. 
“If somebody can find a strain of hops that was very desireable and was commercially available and would do well here, they could probably make a killing with it,” Hauptly-Pierce said. 
Allman found what he terms “heirloom” hop plants in Canterbury, Barnstead and Loudon. 
“One of my hopes is that we’ll find some local heirloom hops variety that’s been growing sort of wild since pre-Prohibition that might actually be a cool hop that might have some good flavors to it,” Allman said.
Stadnik has collected about 20 rhizomes from wild hops around the state. 
“It becomes a challenge today to find those things,” Stadnik said.
He even found some hops growing in the old Fletcher Farm property of Greenfield, where hops were historically grown, along some old rock walls. Today the owners of the farm grow a couple hop plants up the side of their barn for home brewing.
This spring, Marley plans to get some rhizomes from a wild hop plant growing at a blackberry farm in New London that he says has a nice aroma.
“I tend to collect these weird, wild hops,” Marley said.
He found some Manitoban hops at his sister’s property in Campton, another wild hop in Sutton, and about three years ago he traded growlers of beer for a chance to collect some hops on the seacoast that date back 150 to 200 years.
Hoping to keep the seacoast location a secret, Marley declined to name the town, but he said the site is widely believed to be New England’s first hop field.
“They’re some old English cultivar, I would imagine,” Marley said. 





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