Saturday, July 12, 2008

Hops hops hops! That "wicked and pernicious weed!"

Here it is, our glorious hop yard..well all 15 feet long plot of it.But it is our hop yard, all organic, Wassailed along with the apples in early January.
The handsome rooster stands proudly atop our Maypole, the garlands of mayday replaced by the deep green vines of Willamette and Fuggles hop vines.
They peek out of the earth around the end of March and every late August we cut the bines down, heavy with aromatic hop cones and haul it all to The Lucky Labrador Brewery for an orgy of hop picking. We are not the only hop farmers (be it a tiny enterprise) to bring our hops. No this is a community affair.Folks bring their hops to the brewery and in a frenzy of pint imbibing and scratchy hop vine wrestling we pick the hops. We drink ale, we laugh, we celebrate a community harvest of itchy, scratchy goodness. Our hands become gummy with the resins, our hearts full of joy at being a part of something so ancient and good. Growing what we eat, growing what we drink. The magical brewers take our hops and brew it into a fresh hopped IPA. Crispy and bitter. Parking Lot IPA, as that is where we stand around barrels picking the hops. Out in the parking lot.
We have a lovely time.
Mmmm beer. Good beer.

Mister Rooster..
High atop our 25 ft. plus Maypole stands Mister Rooster. Mighty in his plywood glory, symbol of masculine fertility, he has weathered wind, rain and recently an awesome lightening storm..(actually after a huge strike right over the house we thought we lost him, but no, he survived old Thor's wrath!)
The hops have reached his eye, and since this was taken he is now wreathed in green. Little tendrils of vine reaching out to grow even higher if they could

Hop Cones to be=Burrs
Look closely at this picture...see the teeny tiny little "burrs on the light green bit? Those are baby Hop cones. Yep. Hop cones.
They start life as side shoots , that quickly turn into little burrs resembling burdock burrs.
By the end of July these will be full fledged hop cones. Like fish scales they lie one on the other. They grown up to three inches in length, and at the end of August they are sticky with resin.
Hop cones are the female reproductive parts of the plant. Hops are also related to another plant known for it's relaxing effects, Cannibus Sativa...Yes it's true. Would I lie?
For more scientific and other info refer to this groovy link, where I got the title quote above=
And if your feeling daring and might want to try your hand at growing your own =

Ya see the thing is, there is a world wide hop shortage. many factors are involved, but it is a fact that hops are precious commodity at present. Worth their weight in it were.
Well..all I know is it makes me happy to watch them break through the earth in spring, grow like crazy all summer and in the fall we harvest them to brew good ale.
Here's to the hops! Here is to tradition! Here is to the folk who grow what we eat and drink!