A Hoppy Harvest

While we were in the midst of our deck project, our hop plants topped out and the hop flowers were busing growing and eventually it was time to harvest.

Here's how tall the middle one got before it started focusing it's energy on hop production, (remember that's about 20 ft high!):

Here's what the little jewels looked like up close:

Mike was more than a little excited.

To harvest the hops he started by cutting the vines back to the roots.  To my amazement, you do this every year, and every year it starts over and grows back up the rope.

After this, he used the pulleys he designed to bring the plants down to proper picking level.

We actually set up chairs in front of the plants, with the bucket between us and hand cut each hop off.  Between the two of us and the three plants this took about 2 hours.  I'm not a bitter beer drinker so the smell was a little gross to me, but being a big IPA and APA fan like Mike is, he was in heaven.

After we got all of the hop flowers cut, we used our neighbors screen door, (not an extra one lying around, Mike literally went over and asked to use the screen door attached to their door. Mike's crazy and our neighbors are way too nice), to spread them out for drying.

Mike was like a proud papa the whole time and kept wanting to pose with his babies. 

We had two different varieties, or genomes as the beer world calls them, Centennial and Chinook, and that's the reason for the different piles.  We had two Chinook plants and the big pile on the left were from these.  The pile in the top middle are the Centennial, and the smallest pile is from a potted hop plant Mike got from a friend that's sitting up front near the porch. 

I have to admit, I was pretty proud too, especially since we were told that the first year production would only yield about 1/3 of what we got.  And, a couple were so massive that you couldn't help be impressed:

Mike even called the boys from next door over to show off his hops.  They're 6 and 8, so it was a little soon to expect them to be impressed, but they did have fun helping us spread out the hops to get more even drying.  They said they smelled gross too, so we know they've got quite awhile before they're sneaking beers from their parents.

Mike set up a fan underneath the screen and let them dry out for a couple days:

Drying them prevents mildew and preserves them better.  After they dried out, Mike filled up some gallon freezer bags, 6 in total, and froze them to be used later in his homebrew.  Each batch of beer varies, but he usually uses about 2 ounces, (small handful), for each batch, (about 5 gallons of beer per batch), so you can imagine how many batches these will make!

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