All of this hard work is beginning to pay off in the form of sticky, fragrant, lupulin-filled little goodies, which have begun to make their way into the beers of homebrewers and local craft breweries in the piedmont of North Carolina. There have been some significant differences in the timing of the varieties we have growing. The Chinook and a few Cascade were the first to ripen and were ready for harvest in early to mid July. We have had a few small harvests since then and as of this post we have harvested about 10 pounds of fresh hops. The Randall and casks have been a great way to get small quantities of hops to breweries. The response from breweries has been very positive in both the quality of our hops and first year plants and, simply put, the availability of fresh hops in the area. Our first significant harvest of the year is coming up and will be going to Mystery Brewing in Hillsborough, NC for an all North Carolina brew that will be released in September. We are very excited to be a part of this! More to come on this in future posts. Here are some of the places our hops have already been (sorry if you missed out) and some places you will be able to find soon (woohoo, you’re not too late!):
Steel String Brewery, Carrboro, NC, 7/13/13 – Fresh Chinook hops used in the Randall for their Black IPA.
Fullsteam Brewery, Durham, NC, 7/23/13 – Fresh Cascade, Galena and Newport hops used in the Randall in different quantities for two of their IPAs.
Mystery Brewing, Hillborough, NC, 8/4/13 – Cask containing their IPA with our fresh Cascade hops added two weeks prior will be tapped.
Fullsteam Brewery, Durham, NC, August 2013 – Cask release with fresh Cascade hops. More details to come.
Steel String Brewery, Carrboro, NC, August 2013 – Cask release with fresh Cascade hops. More details to come.
Mystery Brewing, Hillsborough, NC, Early September 2013 – Black Lager (bottled) will be available at Weaver St. Market. Brewed with Three Horses Hops’ fresh hops.
Harvesting is a very time consuming activity, especially since we are removing the hops by hand and not cutting the plants down for a single harvest as is done in much larger operations. Involving a ladder or scaffold adds to the time which means harvesting about 1-1.5 lbs/hr. Understanding exactly when the hops are at their peak and ready to make their way from the plant and to the kettle takes a bit of practice. There are three main things that I look for when assessing ripeness: feel, appearance, and lupulin color/abundance. I’ve noticed some differences among varieties, but overall I’ve learned that a ripe hop will have a papery feel throughout, slight browning in some of the petal tips, and slightly darker, more noticeable lupulin glands. Smell is also a great way to test ripeness – this one is harder to explain, but if it smells more like grass clippings than your favorite IPA, its not time to harvest quite yet.