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When Should You Harvest Hops?

This is my second season of growing hops and I have to say it’s been a strange growing season for sure. This year in addition to the Cascade and Nuggets vines we planted last year we also planted Chinook and Fuggles. I don’t use fuggles very often but my wife likes saying “fuggles” so we planted some. Anyway, last year’s plants took off right out of the gate where this year’s plants were a little slow to get in the game. My wife built trellises out of bamboo that is slowly taking over my backyard. They worked great for the first year but this year the load was too much. We’re going to have to do something a bit stronger next year.

Back to the strange growing season, as I mentioned earlier the cascade and nuggets took off and reached the top of the trellis in no time. Soon thereafter I noticed the small burrs on the cascade that show up just before they produce cones. None for the nuggets and the Chinook and fuggles are just starting to climb. This seemed a little early but what do I know. Soon the cones started to appear on the cascade and I wasn’t sure whether this was good or bad. I thought maybe the weather had something to do with it since it’s been so damn hot and dry this summer. We tried keep everything watered but it was hard to keep up. So we kept an eye on them and before we knew it we found some of the cones were already turning brown. This is not a good sign. Most of the vines looked fine and really started to pop out cones in the last week or so. So…is it time to harvest? How can you tell?

Well, I wasn’t completely sure so I did a little research. And here is what I found out. The first thing you need to do is get rid of all those hops cones that are brown or turning brown. These are no good and you do not want to use them in your beer.

Next find and pick a healthy cone. It should be a decent size and have a slightly papery feel. Split it open with a knife or just pull it apart to see the inside. If the cone has tiny yellow nodes (called Lupulin Glands) on the inside then it is ready to be harvested. You should also be able to smell a strong hoppy aroma. The lupulin is the yellow powdery substance that looks like pollen. This contains the resins and oils that make the beer taste like well….beer. Once you see this start picking! Pick, pick, pick! But, be careful not to pick the cones that are young and not quite ready. Those will be your second harvest :-).

The harvesting season for hops runs from late summer to early fall but there are no hard and fast rules on when you should pick yours. Things like climate and soil conditions play a big role in how the plant matures.

I was able to get a yield of about 12 ounces of cascade on this harvest and expect about that same amount again before the season ends. On the flip-side of that, the nuggets only have a handful of cones at this point. I’m not sure what’s going to happen there. I’ll just have to keep an eye on it.

I hope you found this helpful. Please check back for additional posts on planting, caring for, and drying hops. If you are looking for a good resource about hops and other herbs and things to use in your homebrew, check out The Homebrewer’s Garden. As always, if you have any questions, comments, or tips please leave them in the comment section below.

Happy brewing!

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One Response to When Should You Harvest Hops?

  1. Hi, not sure if you can help but here goes. I live on long island and have a cascade plant in my yard. I take good care of it with water and organic fertilizer and it really took off this year. But here we are mid july and most of the hops look ready to harvest. Last year I harvested in late august and this year I am at least 6 weeks earlier. I can’t hold out anymore because many are turning brown and are very dry. Any info would help Thanks,

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