Spring has Sprung – or at least the Hops have!

Hops at the Creek, April 2nd, 2012
Hops at the Creek, April 2nd, 2012

Opening day is rapidly approaching and with it comes all those wonderful harbingers of spring – baby animals, warmer weather and little hop vines poking their heads out of the soil.  This is the fourth year that our hops rhizomes have been in the ground and after a winter blanket of mulch and manure they are raring to go!

In 1874, Charles Whitcombe gave Canadian farmers the following advice in The Canadian farmer’s manual of agriculture:

The quality of the hops depends greatly upon the soil in which it is raised.  As a rule, the stronger the land, the more bitter and strong the flavour and quality of the hop.  From such land they are in great demand amongst brewers of porter.  On lighter lands, although the hop may grow luxuriantly (when land is well enriched) and produce abundantly, they usually contain a less amount of farina and are what is technically called a lesser “condition,” and this quality of hop is also in demand by the brewers of the lighter kind of table-beer.

As our hops become more and more established the flavours will change as the plants grow stronger.  Our first year of harvest produced rather small cones which imparted a very delicate flavour in our Wet Hop Ale.  The harvest from 2011 produced many large cones with a distinctive odour and greater quantities of lupulin (what Whitcombe and many period texts refer to as “farina”), which in turn produced stronger flavours in the Wet Hop and 1 Mile beers we produced.  According to most farm manuals from the 19th century, this year should be our defining harvest as the plants are well established and have acclimated to their new home.  I guess we’ll just have to wait until September to see!

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