If you are like me, you enjoy drinking beer. And if you're like me, then chances are you've thought about the quality of ingredients that go into beer, such as barley and hops; and possibly even growing your own barley and hops at some point. Maybe you have even tried it! Focusing on hops first, growing hops can be an incredibly rewarding experience but there are a few things to consider before you begin. In this article we'll look at the basics of growing hops in Manitoba and provide some information on which varieties might work best here.
If you are looking for a new and challenging way to grow your food, then hops might be for you.
As a beer drinker, you probably already know that hops are an essential ingredient in the brewing process. Hops add bitterness to the beer, but also act as a preservative and give it some aromatic qualities. If you are looking for a new challenge in agriculture and want to learn more about growing your own foods then hops might be what you have been waiting for.
There are some important factors to consider if you are thinking about growing your own hops.
Manitoba can grow hops very well. In fact, Manitoba is located in the prime latitudinal belt that favors growing hops. So if you live in Manitoba, congratulations: you can grow hops here very easily.
Second: the variety of hop that you choose will make a difference in how successful your harvest will be. You want to focus on varieties that are high in alpha acids (the bittering compounds) and low in lupulin (the substance inside the hop cone that contains the flavour and aroma oils). Generally these varieties have been developed north of the 49th parallel and so have adapted to the environment. Some people have had success with earlier maturing varieties like Willamette but typically these do not produce as well in Manitoba because of our short growing season.
Third: hops are a perennial plant, so if you plan to plant hops, think of the long-term. They will re-grow year after year, and are a beautiful climbing vine type of plant, so if you want a set-and-forget type of plant that can also grow beautifully on your fence or terrace, hops may be your answer. Hops are very easy to grow and should be planted as soon as possible once you have acquired them from your local homebrew shop or nursery supply store. The best time for planting here in Manitoba is during the month of May before the soil warms up too much from summer heat waves! You want to avoid wet soil conditions since this could lead to root rot over time or other fungal problems. Harvest in Manitoba hops would start late August and can last until early October. As soon as the hop cone is separated from the hop bine, it needs to be used in brewing; dried down; or the hop oil extracted.
Here are some suggested varieties from different seed suppliers.
If you're buying your hops online, you'll see a variety of choices. Here are some suggested varieties from different seed suppliers:Nugget, Centennial, Cascade, Chinook
- Nugget is a high alpha hop with an alpha acid content of 11.5%. It has a spicy, herbal character that's often described as "earthy." It has an intense aroma of citrus fruit and pine needles, with notes of grapefruit flesh and honeydew melon on the palate.
- Centennial is also known for its high alpha acid content—around 8%—and its citrusy, piney aroma.
- Cascade is another high alpha acid hop that's used both in aroma and bitterness, with an average AA rating of 5-7%. It has a floral aroma and notes of citrus fruit.
- Chinook is also used in both bittering and flavor: it boasts around 12% AA and has strong citrus notes (think grapefruit) plus some pine on the finish.
- Zeus is a high alpha hop with a very good yield. It is used to increase the bitterness of beer, and can be used at any time in the brewing process. Zeus hops have an earthy, grassy flavor that makes them an excellent choice for IPA’s and Pale Ales.
There are lots of things to consider when growing hops, but with the right varieties and some planning you can have a successful harvest for your hops in Manitoba!