[Originally published at The Beer Nut]
One of the most exciting projects we have going on at Jack’s Abby Brewing is our hop project. The endeavor started innocently enough when my mother and I brought back a Cascade hop plant from a trip to Washington in 2005. It was planted at our parent’s farm in Vermont on the pool trellis. Since day one, we have used entirely organic methods to nurture the plants.
We have gone through many expansions while experimenting with a variety of hop strains. To expand our hop growing knowledge and success, our father joined the North East Hop Alliance, eventually serving on their board of directors. In addition to the original Cascade plant, we now also have Zeus, Centennial, Willamette, and Nugget varieties. These are the varieties that have proven to be able to thrive in Vermont’s climate.
In 2008, the initial hop-growing area was expanded to accommodate larger yields. Four rows of sixteen-foot high trellises were built with wires stretching 130 feet. Each trellis supports 50 bines. In 2010, the hop yard was doubled to 8 rows.
We recently built a garden outside the brewery with 20 cascade rhizomes from our original plant on the pool trellis. This hop garden gives us a chance to show off our efforts and also to experiment with some new growing methods researchers have discovered. The optimal trellis height to grow hops is 16 feet. A lot of work was put in to discover what height works best for growing hops when 16 feet is not an option. Researchers have learned that 9 feet is the optimal height for shorter trellises. We are experimenting with these shorter trellises for our garden outside the brewery.
Our hop-growing operation does not come close to meeting our overall demand for hops. Instead we use our crop each year for a special wet hop beer. This process involves harvesting all the hops at both locations on one day. These fresh hops are then used within 24 hours. The result is a uniquely aromatic and hoppy lager. The exact flavor depends on that year’s yield and varietal harvest. This slight variance means that we get to share something unique with you each year.
I hope that you are looking forward to trying our Wet Hop Lager as much as we are. You can also stop by the brewery at any time so see how the hops are doing.