Once hop plants reach the top of the their strings at 18 feet tall they start the process of flowering, ultimately producing the cones that make beer. These tiny flowers start out as small spikes and quickly begin to resemble the finished product.
The flower shown here is a female flower-- and so are all of the others in our field! Cultivated hops are all female plants; they do not need males to be pollinated. In fact, pollination will result in the production of seeds within the cones which will result in extra weight and decreased oil content. Wild plants (yes, there are native wild hops) will produce male flowers and are occasionally seen.
Each hop variety will have a different final size and these range from 1 inch to over 3 inches in length. Here you can see the difference a couple of weeks makes in turning those small spikey flowers into what we can see as hops. These will continue to develop and elongate over the next month or so until harvest.
Growing hops is hard work, but this is the time of year when we love to share the beauty of these fields with you! We were honored to host BlackRock Brewers from Tucson, Arizona last week and show them what's going on in the fields right now.
If your brewery team or group would be interested in learning more about the process of growing hops we would be delighted to host you. August is an especially great time to visit and we promise to have hops ready for you to smell and appreciate!
The summer solstice is a key date for hop growers around the world. Hop plants have the amazing ability to tell when days quit getting longer and begin to get shorter. On June 22 our summer solstice told our hops to start changing modes.
Up until this point in the season our plants have been growing almost exclusively in a vertical direction. These plants are trying their very best to get to the top of the 18' tall trellis. Once they see that they days are getting shorter they begin to send out "sidearms" at each of the leaf nodes. These sidearms and basically the lateral branches where the plants will set the actual hop cones.
Once the sidearms are developed on the plants they will start to send out "burrs", or the small hop flowers, that will be the precursor to the cones.
Whew! What a time to visit the fields!
Our first task of the year is hanging strings for the hops to climb during the coming months. These are special twines made of coconut fiber. This special string, called coir, is rough enough for the plant to climb, strong enough to support the heavy hops at the end of the season, but still an organic material that can be easily chopped up as the hops are processed.
Our trellis system is designed to be a "V system" which means that each plant has two strings to it. So, if you do the math, our entire field requires close to 16,000 hand-tied strings. And that's only part of the work. Each sting is then secured into the ground with a W-clip. These small clips are amazingly effective at securing the strings in the ground in the highest winds.
Once in the ground, the small "wings" on the W provide resistance against any pulling on the string. These are made of steel so they should rust away within a year or two so we don't have to worry about an accumulation of clips in the soil.
We need your help! We are often asked what can be done to promote Iowa grown hops and this is a big part of it!
There is a new bill, SSB 1102, that is going to help hop growers. It's designed to be a tax credit for brewers using Iowa ingredients. It would pertain to fruit, hops, barley, honey, etc.
Here's the bill: https://www.legis.iowa.gov/legislation/BillBook…
We would love it if you contacted your legislator to encourage their support. You can find your representative here: https://www.legis.iowa.gov/legislators/find
Let's be honest, there are so many things on Pinterest that you can fall down that rabbit hole for a long time! We've created these handy infographics to help keep all of the pertinent hops information you need in one place.
And of course, you know we are happy to help you find these hops for your brewing pleasure.
Will be more of these coming? Possibly. But for now let's start with these. Is there another variety you would like to see made? Let us know below!
The simple answer on how to buy our hops? Call us or send an email! We are happy to discuss availability, pricing and any other questions you might have. All of our hops are processed and pelletized within 24 hours of harvesting from the field. They are stored in a freezer facility until they are delivered and come with a certificate of analysis showing alpha acids, beta acids and oil content.
Are you a homebrewer looking for smaller quantities? We currently have 1 lb packages of Cascade and Columbia available. These are in seal-able bags and would store well over several brews.
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.
Cedar Falls Hops Co. grows Iowa hops. Follow us on here to keep up with the newest progress in our fields.