September… Labor Day comes and goes, and with it, the end of beautiful, blissful summer.
But, there are a few things that I do love about the fall. The slightly cooler weather, colorful fall leaves, and HOP HARVEST TIME, WAHOOOO!!
It’s finally time for us to see what we got from our 21 hop plants! We’ve (well, mostly Tim has) been nurturing the little guys all summer long, and now the cones are starting to show signs that they’re ready for picking.
Tim came up with a pretty sweet hop trellis set-up early in the season, which you can see below. We planted several hop varieties, including Galena, Sterling, Fuggles, Centennial, Willamette, Magnum, Mt Hood, and good ol’ Cascade!
Some of the bines were more ambitious than others, making their way to the tippy-top of the trellis. Others only made it up a few feet, but this is to be expected from first year rhizomes. Hop plants tend to get more robust as the years go by.
It’s time to pick the cones when they start to get papery and the edges turn slightly brown. If you want to be sure, take a hop cone and rub it in between your hands. If the hops are ready to be picked, the lupulin glands (which contain the resins and oils that give hops their magically delicious properties) will be yellow and sticky on your hands.
Fresh hop or wet hop beers are a common trend these days. Rather than drying the cones after harvesting, brewers will throw the freshly picked hops right in there. More commonly, the cones are dried and stored in air-tight containers in the freezer before use.
The drying process is simple. We just spread them out on window screens and have a fan blow on them (on low speed) for a few days. Once they’re dry, we bag ‘em and tag ‘em.
I’m very much looking forward to brewing a harvest ale this fall! We’re waiting a few weeks until the rest of our hops are ready to pick. We may try making a wet hop beer if the timing works out. I’ll be sure to write about it when the time comes!