When we first established our brewery, Greg was given 2 hop plants for his birthday and these were planted at the front of the original brewery. In 2008, Ian Thorn, our first employed brewer, thought it would be a good idea to brew a small batch of green hopped beer - with the fresh green hops put straight into the brew, and he named it Brewers Garden.
This easy drinking fresh 4.2 % pale ale was a real hit and we have brewed it every year since as a harvest celebration. One of our local and loyal customers spotted our very tiny hop garden and offered to grow a plant on their community allotment plot and so too our hop club was born.
Each year our community of hop growers cut down their bines, bring them to the brewery, and we hand pick the hop cones. On the same day we brew up the annual batch of Brewers Garden. With food, beer and serenaded by Dave Ayre and his jazz band, this is one of the highlights of our year.
The hop (Latin name Humulus Lupulus) is a herbaceous, hardy, climbing perennial and belongs to the Cannabinacae family, which also includes hemp and is related to the nettle and elm families. It dies back to its roots every year and will live for 20 years or more.
The hop is a dioecious plant, which means that the male and female flowers are borne on separate plants. It is the larger female flowers, called cones, that yield the fruits that are used commercially. Hops begin to grow in April, flower in July and are ready for harvesting in September. They are used in brewing to give beer its distinctive bitter taste and smell.
Join our hop growing community
We have a growing list of hop club members with hops in their gardens and allotments. If you would like to join the group, click here
Growing your Hop
We have supplied you with a root cutting from a hop plant, and this needs planting as soon as possible.
Hops are sun loving plants. They want around 6-8 hours of sun a day in summer months – so somewhere south facing and exposed is ideal. We suggest planting approximately 0.75-1m from a wall that you can fan out and attach some growing strings to.
Soil & Planting
You should plant your root cutting as soon as possible. Hops prefer; loose, non-compacted, easy draining, slightly acidic and highly nutritious soil. Dig a hole, start to fill with some well aerated soil mixed with a little compost, place in the root cutting – if you see growing tips place them facing upwards, and cover with more soil. Pack the soil lightly and then cover with mulch or straw. This helps to keep the roots cool and make it easier to deal with weeds. You want to keep the ground moist, so as the days warm up, watering every couple of days will be sufficient unless the temperature is really hot.
Climbing Structure & Maintenance
Hop bines grow vertically and require some kind structure to climb. To make harvesting simple we suggest some strong twine – thick hairy coir is nice and grippy for the hop to climb.
Hop bines can grow to over 5-6 m and weigh up to 12kg so be sure the structure is strong and secure. Hop plants are surprisingly resilient but they will require some maintenance whilst they are growing. As well as fertilising the ground and weeding you should prune leaves from the bottom of the plant, clearing the bottom 2-3ft of leaves regularly to help with aeration and pest control.
Hops will grow fast throughout summer and should be ready for harvest by early September. In the first year the harvest is likely to be small as hops haven’t yet reached peak yield. Hop cones are ready for harvest when they are dry/papery to the touch, springy, have a strong hop aroma and leave yellow lupulin powder on your fingers – when you think they’re ripe pick one and open it, if ripe it should be full of thick yellow-gold lupulin powder. To make harvesting easy we suggest cutting down the strings and taking the whole plant. If you are local to the brewery, bring to the brewery on hop picking day, or pick at home and post the cones to us, and we will be sure to add to the brew
After harvest you want to cut bines back to approx. 3ft. The winter frost will kill off the bines, after which they should be cut back further and covered with mulch. Come spring trim the roots back to about a foot, add some fresh mulch and fertilizer and a new strings and your good to go for the next season.
Whatever your plant produces this season, don't worry, people bring along plenty and we need as many hands as possible on the picking day.. We will keep in touch through the growing year.
We wish you luck. Send us photos!