Harvest is complete and we can take some time to reflect on the season and make plans for the future. We've had wonderful support from the community and look forward to developing more relationships with brewers near and far.
We even had the pleasure of hosting Olivia Schmitt of the KWWl news team in our fields for an interview. You can enjoy her piece HERE.
Its that time of year! We are just shy of harvesting, but the fields look really nice and the hops are just dripping off of the plants. So, what do we do while we anxiously await harvest? We work on "alternative projects"... okay, wreaths and bouquets.
If you would like to order one of these, please email us to reserve your handmade wreath. These are approximately 30" wide and it is best to get them now while the hops are fresh. Then, hang the wreath in its new location and enjoy! The hops will become brittle, so we don't recommend hanging on doors or places where they will be bumped a lot. Your wreath should last almost a year and then you can replace with a new one!
Wreaths are $40.00 and bouquets vary based on size.
June in the hop yard is a slightly more relaxed time of year. We've finished stringing, training, and even have everything planted in our additional three acres we're adding this year.
So what are we doing? Weed control, irrigation, scouting for pests and disease, spraying and general maintenance.
The spaces between our rows of poles and strings are planted with dwarf white clover. This can reach about 8" tall or so, but we mow every couple of weeks to take out the few weeds that come up in this area. The clover is full of flowers right now so we have lots of bees and other pollinators visiting.
Below you can see the difference between newly planted hops (foreground) and plants in their second year (rear). After a couple of weeks of 90 degree temperatures the new hops are beginning to take off and show quite a bit of growth each week.
Thank you to everyone who came out to join us in celebrating American Craft Beer Week. The team from SingleSpeed did an awesome job of coordinating the bike ride from their Cedar Falls taproom to the farm. How far? Just 5 Miles.
Hmm, only 5 Mile? What a great name for a beer made with local hops from a farm only five miles away!
Available exclusively from the SingleSpeed taproom in Cedar Falls:
American Pale Ale
"5 Miles is an excitingly short distance when you think about new friends. That’s just what we’re doing when we think about how awesome and close Cedar Falls Hops Co. is. Made with delicious Cascade and Columbia hops, grown locally in our own back yard this collaborative pale ale is an excitingly short distance from your taste buds. "
And yes, we're totally biased, but its delicious!
Celebrate American Craft Beer Week with SingleSpeed Brewing Co and Cedar Falls Hops Co! As you embark on your journey to taste and celebrate Independent Craft Beer during American Craft Beer Week, learn about the local industry developing to grow hops in Iowa.
Participants can visit Cedar Falls Hops Co. from 9:00AM until 2:00PM to see the spring time hops fields and have the opportunity to help plant hops on this expanding farm. An optional bicycle ride leaving from the SingleSpeed Cedar Falls Tap Room to the hop fields will begin at 10:15 am.
Beginning at 12:00PM on Saturday, the Cedar Falls SingleSpeed Brewing taproom will feature an American Pale Ale made with Cascade and Columbia hops grown at Cedar Falls Hops Co. Be one of the first to enjoy this Iowa grown and brewed beer!
Find more details on Facebook HERE.
After a very late winter, we are happy to be back working in the hops field again!
On April 18th we received 4" of snow! While it didn't last long, it is definitely later than normal for us to be getting started. The photo below shows the same field with photos taken about six hours apart.
Now is the time when we start "stringing hops". Stringing hops is the process of going through the field and adding strings to where each plant will soon be growing. Our trellis system is such that each plant will have a "V" of strings, so two strings per plant. For our original four acres this is roughly 8,500 strings!
Hops plants grow on a coconut coir string. This is kind of like a very rough and tough baling twine. It is all natural, but yet it stands up to the harsh conditions of almost six months of plants growing. Each of the strings is precut in 20' lengths, so there is plenty of extra for both tying and pinning.
We use what is known as a Cow Hitch Knot to secure the string to the top wire. After the first few hundred it is easy to do! I will admit, we tie them one by one.
Want to see the professionals? This video on YouTube shows a master. No joke. Skip ahead to the 2:05 mark in the video and watch him tie two at once, one in each hand. Its unbelievable!
The most difficult part of growing hops, in my opinion, it takes the right conditions with very little wind to get this done efficiently. In our area, these days are hard to find in the spring.
We are very fortunate to have a hardworking group of college students and friends who help make this daunting task possible.
Terroir (French pronunciation: [tɛʁwaʁ] from terre, "land") is the set of all environmental factors that affect a crop's phenotype, including unique environment contexts, farming practices and a crop's specific growth habitat.
This term is very often used in the wine industry to describe the importance of wine from different regions of the world. It is often defined this way:
Now, what if we use this word to describe the importance of place when growing hops and, ultimately, brewing beer?
The location of where hops are grown in very important in creating flavors of beer distinct to where they are brewed. What's the point of having a beer that has no personality or distinction unique to where it was made?
This awesome article by Stan Hieronymus delves into the importance of terroir in hops and the craft beer industry.
Don’t call it terroir. Call it beer from a place.
Yes, where hops are grown matters. Iowa beers need Iowa hops.
It's official. As of 12:15 pm today it is SPRING!
That being said, its only 34 degrees outside. So, what do we do to get ready for spring? Right now we are working to remove the old 3' bines that were left from last season. This isn't a hard job, it just takes some time to work our way through the fields.
Our other task is getting tools cleaned and ready to go. Here you can see hand pruners soaking in a bowl of vinegar. This helps to remove any debris and rust while they soak for about 12 hours. When that is done they will be sharpened and greased as the final steps.
It won't be long until the first shoots are emerging and there is lots of work to be done!
I just looked up the number of days until spring: 33
As these images will show, there isn't a lot going on in our fields right now. While we are busy in the office planning for the coming year, the plants are blanketed in a layer of snow.
The snow is actually a welcome sight in our fields. The snow acts as insulation on the crown of the plants and protects them from cold winds. At the crown of the plant are the buds which will form the coming year's growth and protecting these growing points is important.
So for now we plan which varieties will go in our additional three acres this spring, meet with brewers to talk about the value of Iowa grown hops and dream of hop bines climbing to the sky this summer.
Its been a busy fall!
The past six weeks have been full of activity as we've added an additional three acres of hops trellis to our field. What does this entail? Well the basic steps include:
Building a Hops Trellis:
The poles are set in place with the help of our wonderful friend, Don Briggs, and Mike. These two have mastered the technique for using the bucket of the tractor to lift the end of the pole just high enough for it to be gently set into the hole.
The next step involves using a "pogo stick" on the end of an air compressor to back fill the soil in around the pole. We attempt to align each pole on the north side of each hole to help with alignment, use a level to get things straight, and then fill the hole in roughly three different steps so that the soil can be compacted at several layers to keep things steady.
We are very lucky to have the incredible team of Tom Perez and Lisa Ott from Otter's Edge Farms help us with both the design and cable install. They are awesome and did a great job.