This year I decided to buy a hop plant; I’ve been brewing more and more beer at home (if you’re interested, I ramble about it over on Pete Drinks) and after the success of growing wheat and making my own bread from the ground up, I love the idea of doing the same with beer.
Beer requires two primary ingredients – hops, and barley. Of the two, hops are by far the easiest to process; you just grow them, pick the flowers, dry them out and add them to the beer. Barley will be more complicated as it needs to be malted before use, so that will be a project for next year.
The hop plant arrived in the spring as just a root and some short twigs, along with a handy guide telling me not to expect too much for the first year as the plant got established. It took a while to get going, but once it did, it went absolutely crazy.
Hops grow as long vines – very long indeed; this one (a Bramling Cross) can grow 20 feet in a good year, apparently. Even though this is the first year, it looks like the hop is determined to break that record already – it’s clambered to the top of the second stake I’ve given it, and is now starting to grow down the length of the garden.
It’s hard to overstate how fast this thing grows – the main vine puts on well over an inch a day. If I spend more than a couple of hours out in the garden, I swear I can see it’s grown during that time. The shoot in the picture above – the second vine to put in an appearance – is maybe six inches long and wasn’t even visible a week before that. In the few days it’s been since I took that picture, it’s doubled in length.
They’re incredible things to watch grow. Now I just have to hope I get some flowers off it!