Ramble On

Monday, June 15, 2015

Catching Up - Dan's Hops

A view from the east side, the oldest
plants are here.
There are a couple of hop yards that I credit for inspiring us to start Hawksbill Hop Yards - Bill's, which I posted about last week, and Dan's, which I visited on Saturday and will post about today.  Sometimes, I even refer to them as "pilots" because I learned a lot about the plants from these guys.

I first came across Dan's hop yards back in 2009 or so, maybe sooner, but it was when he was just getting started.  There were a dozen or so hills of three or so varieties, and he hadn't quite figured out the trellis.

The makeshift trellis, an additional
10 feet, extends from the lower right.
Flash forward to 2015, and there are more than two dozen hills of five varieties, and the trellis is continually improving.  It's ten feet tall and built of found objects, such as recycled plumbing pipes, and cedar poles that come from the 2-acre wood lot he's got back there.  This year he added some drip irrigation as well.

Production has been consistent all these years, so he always has ingredients for his home brewing operation.  This year, all of his plant except for the first year ones have cones.  It's a sign of progress that some which hadn't borne before are doing so this year.

There were a couple of case studies from the visit - by the way, afterwards we enjoyed a fantastic ribs dinner from the grill.

First, Dan has had a couple of Goldings plants in his garden for a few years now, but this is the first year that they have set cones.  I made a point of selecting this variety at Hawksbill Hop Yards, and I've received a lot of comments about them not working out well.   After seeing how his are doing, my takeaway is that we'll have to be patient with them - that row of 60 Goldings may need a full three years to mature, so that's just how it will have to be.

The second takeaway is something we've learned about the Willamettes - Dan's had these in the garden forever, using them as decorative plants.  They never set cones until this year, when he transplanted them to a new spot, and added more support to them so they could climb higher than the trellis.  He put a rope up they could climb to a neighboring tree branch so they can climb to 20 feet...and guess what, these plants are laden with huge cones.

They'll be a challenge to harvest, but they'll be a great variety to experiment with as he brews his batches over the winter!

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