Who doesn’t love a frosty cold mug of beer on a hot summer day? If you’re enjoying the craft beer craze, you might be curious about brewing your own beer at home. There are many ways to do this, most people buy their hops and start from there, but if you want to get really authentic with the process, it is actually possible to grow your own!
Yes, that’s right. You could actually grow beer in your garden – well, the main ingredient for beer, at least. Just follow these steps to grow your own hops, and then pick up the rest of your supplies at a local homebrew store or even Amazon.
Choose your variety. Some varieties of hops are patented, and not for sale, but there are still plenty of great choices out there. Do your research and decide which type of hops you want to grow. Then, purchase rhizomes from a local nursery or order them from a reputable source online. Rhizomes are the underground stems that put out roots and lateral shoots.
Plant your rhizomes. The main thing to avoid is very cold weather, but we don’t have to worry about that much in Southern California. So, early spring is a good time to plant. Space your rhizomes about three feet apart in a sunny spot, in soil that drains well. Bury each rhizome about 6 to 12 inches deep.
Water your plants. It’s easy to over-water baby hops plants and cause them to rot. So, take it easy, especially at first.
Support your plants. Hops do best when allowed to grow vertically, but they’ll need your help. Keep in mind that fully-grown hops plants can grow as tall as 20 feet! You can build a trellis, or use a simpler twine system. Just make sure you can support the weight of the plants. Hops have been known to grow as much as a foot per day in the middle of summer!
Harvest your hops. Hops will generally be ready for harvest in late August to early September. Check the cones, and if they feel dry and “paper-like,” they’re ready to be used. Simply pick the cones and use them right away, or dry them if you’re not ready to make beer yet. After drying, you can freeze your hops or vacuum seal them.
Prepare for next year. By early winter, you should cut the vines from the plant and then cut your plants down to about one foot tall. That’s all you have to do! Your hops will return in the spring, bringing you more delicious ingredients for your beer.