One of the questions I hear a lot is, “will I get enough homegrown hops the first year to make a fresh hop beer?” And the answer is “maybe.” As you can see from the photo, I got a whopping 2.1 oz of homegrown Cascade hops my first year. An IPA was NOT in the cards.
It seemed like a good time to bring this up, because if you’re going to plant hops to use this year, you need to do it in the next week or so. (And because I stumbled across these photos and realized I never used them. Ha!)
When I built the raised beds for our hops, lots of people told me I might not get a good crop the first year. (Remember, you need probably twice the weight of fresh hops compared to dried hops.)
My expectations were low, but I used a fair amount of compost and water anyway. Every day when I got home from work, I’d wobble over to the raised beds in my bike shoes to see if there was any growth. It was a sad (and scary) site with me in my spandex peering into the dirt, hoping for some sign of life.
Eventually, the hops did grow. You can see the “bounty” of the first year in the photo below. I believe that’s my Cascade hops hanging off the bamboo trellis I used.
Tending your hops by using lots of compost and keeping the ground moist if you’re in a container or raised beds are the two simplest steps you can take to get a decent crop your first year.
I am convinced I would’ve had a lot more hops with a little more attention. The mistake I made was not fighting off the insects (aphids) that attacked all three varieties of hops. The homegrown Magnum hops below were certainly the most aggressive, but also were laid low by the aphids. You can see I got less than an ounce of Magnum hops.
And you’ll also notice that I’m not showing the crop of Willamette hops that I grew. That’s because I didn’t get a single hop cone of Willamette hops. The aphids just knocked it down. In fact, I think my Willamette hop plant never got higher than six feet. This year, I won’t make that mistake. A little insect soap will go a long way.
So here’s the recipe for the 8022 Red I made with my fresh hops last fall:
- 1 lb 40L Crystal malt
- 1/2 lb 50L Caramel malt
- 1/4 lb Flaked corn
- 9 lbs extra light malt extract
- 1.5 oz fresh Cascade hops (boiling)
- 0.7 oz fresh Magnum hops (boiling)
- 0.6 oz fresh Cascade hops (aroma)
- Wy’East American Ale Yeast
It is, unsurprisingly, a very sweet ale. But it’s my sweet fresh hop ale, made with my homegrown hops.