My goal is to brew a beer using ingredients that I have grown organically. There are several reasons why, first it's a lot fun watching the plants grow and so is brewing beer, why not combine the two. Second, I believe sustainability is the key to our future, and it doesn't get much more earth friendly then to grow your own, be it food or beer. Third, Kent County, being the most agricultural county in Maryland, is reliant upon a three crop system, corn, soybeans and winter wheat. Why not grow things we actually use, instead of something the government will subsidize and use for the mass production of beef or high fructose corn syrup. So this blog will chronicle my adventure into homegrown homebrew.
It will also be giving updates on the first commercial hop farm in Maryland, and one of the few in the Mid-Atlantic, being started right here in Kent County on Maryland's Eastern Shore. They have planted over 200 rhizomes and are planning on selling fresh hops to local breweries. In the U.S. hops are currently commercially grown in the Pacific Northwest; Oregon and Washington, because of the humidity in the Mid-Atlantic leads to diseases such as downy mildew. There are ways around these diseases, like picking resistant varieties as well as fungicides.
So I hope you enjoy the blog, please comment and let me know what you think.
Hops, Humulus Lupulus, are used in brewing to add floral, spice and other bittering flavors. I began growing hops last year with moderate success. First year hop plants spend most of their energy on establishing roots, so more yield can be expected from mature plants. Last years plants are around 2 feet (pictured) and are growing vigorously each day and exciting to watch. Hops are bines, which means they cling to some sort of structure using hairs extending from the stem. A hop yard can have several different types of trellis systems to support the plants. I'm using two different types; hooks attached to an overhanging roof and a may pole system (one pole with hops encircling it). Basically I've used whatever scrap wood was lying around, but hops will grow on most structures where they get full sun and the soil drains well.
I've got ten plants, hopefully all producing some sort of harvest. The varieties include Cascade, Centennial, Mt Hood, Nugget and Brewers Gold. Each plant will grow several shoots but I cut all but 6 for mature plants and three for first years. This aids in cone production (cones are the flowers of hops which are used for brewing). I replant all extra shoots in pots so if anyone is interested in growing hops I'd be happy to give you some to start your own yard. Rhizomes (the roots of hops) are also available online and are inexpensive. I get my rhizomes from Freshops.com and are happy with their service.
I also plan to grow barley for the first time and will plant 2-row and 6-row varieties soon. The seed was hard to find online but I eventually did and would be happy to share where from if anyone is interested.