Manitoba is known for our booming agriculture industry, specifically grain and oilseed farms. Since everything we put into our beer is Manitoba grown, we go into a territory that isn’t usually known on our prairies, hops farming. It’s been a growing industry in Canada, since the craft beer has grown more popular over the last couple years.
If you’re thinking of brewing your own beer, and you want to add your own touch to it, here’s how you can grow your own hops in your own backyard.
- Order your hops: It’s hard to find hops in Manitoba to buy, so you have to order the Rhizomes from the Internet. They are almost out of season, so if you are wanting to plant, best to start looking ASAP. When you’re looking for Rhizomes to plant, do some research on what kind you want, as different hops produce different flavours. Also, try to look for female Rhizomes whenever possible. Only female Rhizomes produce cones, and if males are around, they will seed the females, which (in most cases) isn’t something you want to deal with.
- Planting: Again, you need to do your research to prepare your soil the correct way for the type of hops you are planting. Dig a hole about a foot deep, and layer the bottom with some kind of fertilizer. If you are planting the same variety, you can plant them about 3’ apart. If you are planting different varieties of hops, try to plant them at least 5’ apart to prevent tangling. Make sure to keep your plants well watered Consider how you will support the vines ones they grow when choosing an area.
- Supporting the vines: hops vines like to climb, so planting near a fence or wall is a great idea. Consider and steak in the ground with a strong twine or string attached. When the vines are about a foot in length, wrap them clockwise around the support you built. It will keep growing, and may need your help to wrap itself around the support
- Harvesting: When the hops flower, you will begin to see cones forming. Don’t harvest the cones too early though. To test them, squeeze the cone in your finger. If the cone is damp, very green, and stays compressed after you squeeze, they are not yet ready. They are ready if when you squeeze them, they bounce back to their original form, they are sticky, and the smell of the hops is much more noticeable. Cut the vines and let them lay on the ground to absorb into the soil.
- Drying the cones: You can dry your hops by using a food dehydrator. The hops will need to dry for several hours. You will know they are done when you open up a cone and it is dry on the inside. If the hops feel papery and petals break off easily from the stem, the hops are ready.
There you have it. By the end of the summer, you will have hops that are ready to use in your beer.