HomePicking Hops for an Autumn HomebrewPicking Hops for an Autumn Homebrew

Picking Hops for an Autumn Homebrew

Photo of hops

For several years now, hops have flourished in a spot where they are not supposed to grow– on Coronado Island. Some assume these plants are wild, but I know better. For it was one night, long ago, that I planted their rhizomes in the light of the moon when no one was looking.

As a homebrewer and lover of all beers, especially freshly made, I have a keen appreciation for green hop ales. My enthusiasm for fresh hop beers is so keen, in fact, that I wanted to grow some hops for my homebrewing. And that’s why I planted them, hoping they would grow.

Photo of hop bine shoots

Fresh hop beers are special. These rare brews have a delicate aroma and flavor to them and can only be made while the hops are in season, which is once a year.

Naturally, beginning in August every year, I inconspicuously visit these hidden hop bines to check on them and plan my approach for picking their flowers at the Harvest Moon, the full moon nearest the autumnal equinox. Hops deteriorate rapidly and once picked they must go right into the brew kettle.

Stepping into the garden my eyes are on the dark green bines thick with hop flowers. I notice the bines are bigger this year, but still supported by the old white trellis I stuck in the ground for them to climb on. Like last year, I was excited to see a healthy crop of flowers, ready to pick.

Photo of hop bines and cones

Checking on their quality, I pulled off one of the big cones to split open and smell. Inside the cone was the delicate pollen known as “lupulin” which holds the hop’s flavor and fragrance.

Opening a large zip lock bag I started picking hop cones and dropping them in one by one. After a few minutes, though, I abandoned this method and went for a faster way by pulling off clumps. After 15 minutes of picking I had filled a bag and started filling another. I needed enough for a batch of IPA I was brewing in the next hour.

Photo of hops

Soon I had enough. Two bags packed with green cones. My fingers were sticky with resin and smelled herbaceous and minty.

Photo of two zip lock bags full of hops

Back at my brewing rig, I set the brewing process in motion. At the end of the boil I emptied the bags into the wort and stirred them in to allow their essence to be absorbed. The aroma of the vapor cloud rising from the kettle was pungent, floral, woody, peppery, and resinous, all at the same time.

After cooling the wort and adding some liquid yeast, this green hops brew was pumped into a fermenter where the yeast will make beer, and in a few weeks it will be ready to drink. I’ll report back on its taste.

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