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Hops for homebrewers

The increase in craft breweries is creating a boom in hop production.

My husband dabbles in the art of brewing his own beer. It’s pretty good. I think it could be even better if we grew our own hops.

Pat Weakland is the owner of High Hops Brewery in Windsor, Colorado. He also grows about 50 different varieties of hops on one-and-a-half-acres of land. Weakland says the most common question he gets is, what are the best varieties? The answer is, what kind of beer do you like to drink or brew?

"One of the staple favorites, best growing, best-selling hop plants is Cascade. Cascade, Chinook, Centennial, Columbus," says Weakland. "So, when you’re looking into hops and you’re researching it, everyone says go with the C’s. That’s the ones I just quoted you too. Those are the best sellers, some of the best growers, they’re resistant to bugs, and viruses, and fungus."

Hop vines can grow 25-feet and weigh over 20-pounds, so have a tall, sturdy trellis for them to climb on in a sunny spot. The side of a building is often a good place. Keep in mind they can live for 20-years or more. Buy hop plants from a reputable nursery and plant them in loose, well-drained soil. They’re not fond of heavy clay.

"They need to be kept somewhat evenly moist, they like to get a little dry, but then when you water them you water them deep," says Weakland. "That way it encourages root growth. They do like some fertilizer, we like to load them up into, like, mid-June right before they’re starting to put on the hop cones. Look for a fertilizer with a bigger middle number, the phosphorous number, that way it encourages root growth."

You probably won’t get much production out of the first year. Weakland says years two, three, and four are when you start harvesting a good poundage of hops at the end of the growing season.  

Learn more about growing hops for homebrewing

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