Ramble On

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Getting Close @hawksbillhops

Here's a great big Cascade cone!
Since I knew that harvest is nearly upon us, I decided that I would stay back in Alexandria last weekend.  I took care of a few errands I have been trying to get to - and I brewed two batches of beer using some honey a work colleague gave me.  In the meantime, I missed my check-in at the hop yard, but fortunately David indulged me with a few snaps.

By the way, the two brews were a honey lavender kolsch - this will use the lavender tincture process I've discribed before (click on the label with this post to see how that was done), and a honey peppercorn saison.  The backyard honey I had was a very light amber, so I figured I'd use it in summery brews.  Later I'll get some buckwheat honey from our cover crop that I will use in a porter.

We've been tracking the Cascade, Chinook, and Columbus for the last few weeks, since those plants all did well enough in their first year to give us a harvest.  The Fuggles and Goldings all have cones as well, but the quantities aren't enough to consider them with the same intensity.  I will likely go out this weekend and hand pick the cones from those.

That situation isn't unexpected, and it's also nothing to worry about.  Especially with the Goldings, I figured the plants might need as much as three full years to mature to full yields - so we're going to patiently wait on them.

I suppose I have been obsessing about the harvest almost since we planted the rhizomes back in May - and my worries only increased once we started getting burrs on many of the plants.  At around July 4, I'd even picked a lupulin laden Columbus cone off of one of those bines.  I'm still not happy with myself about the harvest plan - we've never been through the cycle before and we definitely don't have a solid process, so I'm a little worried.
Here's a monster Chinook bine.

The other side of the argument is that it is the first year, so the yields are unpredictable anyhow.  The range of maturity times throughout the hop yard is varying widely within the varieties and between the varieties, which is typical of a first year crop, from what I hear.  So the decision we've made is to go ahead and harvest all at once, setting a date that is about a week later than what we're hearing from the guys down in Richmond and Charlottesville - we're one growing zone away from them, as confirmed by the arrival of Japanese beetles a week or two after they all got them.  

So that's our story for now.  We'll be working on the logistics for the harvest, and for oasting, as a next step.  The real fun is about to start!

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