This article may be completely without relevance to you on two accounts: either you planted your hops on time and have already harvested your crop weeks ago, thereby rendering my article utterly without applicability, or you don’t grow your own hops, being neither of ample space or patience, which would make my article to you a giant waste of time. Wellp, just skip to the second half of the article where I actually talk about beer. See you there. If you planted late or just curious about what I have to say, well dear reader, follow me on a journey about getting my hands so hoppy and sticky I could make a West Coast IPA just by washing my hands.
It’s around harvest time now, if you planted your hops around mid-May. Now, I don’t homebrew, but I decided to grow my own hops just for shiggles this year; since I live in an apartment and don’t have any yard of my own, I was reduced to crappy direct-sunlight hours and a 3.5 gallon pot of dirt. But even my first year Cascade bines got a couple-dozen hops, so I got to feeling pretty good about myself.
Then I went to a hop picking party hosted by High Hops hop farm in Windsor, CO, and got to see how an actual harvest is supposed to look like. Unlike first year amateur bines, commercial operations can make flowers pop all over the dang place from the base to the very tip-top. Now, you could very well use a machine to sort out flowers from stems and leaves, but this is a known wasteful method costing hops and fuel. And nobody likes a carbon footprint. So High Hops hosted a little free food and draft local beer, and volunteers showed up by the dozens to pick hops…for five hours. It wasn’t all for naught—I mentioned the free beer and food. Well, everyone got 2oz of hops for every pound they picked, plus the overall winner got GABF tickets. And sticky yellow/black hands that smelled slightly of grapefruit and pepper.
(And for whatever it’s worth, if you’re ever in a hop picking contest, hoard all the Zeus to yourself–big thick weighty cones—as opposed to Galena, those fragile uber-light miniature cones that take an hour to pick a pound.)
Or if you’re an experienced hop grower, make sure to pick your hops like, yesterday. Everyone else is, and unless your flowers are starting to turn brownish, you’d better close your laptop and grab a pillowcase. Wynkoop already grabbed their fresh sticky wet hops a fortnight ago from Misty Mountain Hops near Montrose, CO, preparing for their Belgorado—a Belgian Pale Ale brewed with Colorado hops and malts—released next week or so. It was picked in public at their brewpub as to let everyone in on the aromatic goodness.
If you’ve never had the joy of tasting a fresh-hop or wet-hop beer, well get yourself over to your nearest microbrew. Chances are your nearest local brewed a fresh-hop beer with someone’s generous donation, much like Copper Kettle’s Fresh Hop #9, made with hops grown in the backyard of one of their biggest fans. Don’t live near a cool local? That’s ok, because chances are you live within a large brewer’s distribution network; look for the Sierra Nevada Northern Hemisphere Harvest, the Port High Tide Fresh Hop, Deschutes Hop Trip, or the Great Divide Fresh Hop in the coming weeks to hit store shelves.
If you are a homebrewer and you did harvest your own hops this year, I bet you’re dying to brew it up, or patiently waiting for it to finish fermenting. But remember, reaping is just as laborious as sowing. Perhaps more so. But then you get to drink it down and know for yourself that you produced a truly unique beer that nobody else can replicate. And that is definitely worth sticky hands.
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