Community Brew: Harvest, Hop-Drop, Brew Date & Launch Party
We've Made It!
Well we’ve made it this far in our Community Brew project. After diligent care, punctual pruning, and unconditional love, your hop plants are (hopefully) bursting with cones. Even if your cones haven’t fully developed, hang tight – there’s still a good chance you will have full cones by the weekend of our Hop Drop for our Community Brew (August 30th – September 2nd). If this is your first year participating in the Community Brew and you’re wondering what on earth a “hop drop” is, all the details will be explained below. But before we get to that, it is important for you to know what to look for in order to get the best out of your hops.
Harvesting Your Hops*
A common mistake is picking the cones too early. You want to pick over-ripe hops rather than under-ripe hops, otherwise you’ll deprive them of those awesome alpha acids. Depending on location, harvest occurs between mid-August and September. If these are first-year hops, expect a small harvest—most of the energy throughout the growing period is used to develop the root systems, making it difficult for cones to reach their peak yield. Expect a fuller harvest in the second year, and a big leap in hop yield the third year.
How to Check Hop Cone Ripeness
- Give the cone a light squeeze. If the cone stays compressed, it’s not ripe enough. When they feel light and dry—and spring back after a squeeze—they’re ready to be harvested.
- Pick a cone, roll it in your hands and smell it. If it has a pungent smell between cut grass and onion, it’s time to harvest.
- Roll the hop next to your ear. If it makes a cricket sound, this also means they’re ready to harvest. If the lupulin turns orange and smells rancid, you’ve overshot your window.
- The hop should be springy, dry and papery on the tips, and sticky to the touch.
- Look for lupulin, the visible, thick yellow substance on the outside of the cone.
Picking Your Hops
There are two methods for picking your hops: pick by hand (recommended for first-year harvests) or cut down the bine (recommended for all harvests after the first year).
If you cut the bine down, cut two to three feet above the ground to prevent injury to the root system and crown. For first year bines, try to pick the cones and not cut down the bine until it dies off. Vital nutrients will flow back to the root system for the winter months and ensure it survives. For following years, cut the bine down and be careful not to damage or dirty those precious lupulin glands. You should expect one to two pounds of dry hops per mature plant.
Community Brew: Important Dates
Hop Drop Weekend: Friday August 30th – Monday September 2nd
If you’re bringing in your hops to contribute to this years Community Brew, just bag them fresh and bring them in to the brewery anytime during our Hop Drop Weekend, August 30th – September 2nd. Hang out with fellow backyard hop growers and reward your toil of hop harvesting with a cold beer in the Ward Room. We will refrigerate the hops over the weekend until we are ready to brew.
Community Brew Day: Tuesday September 3rd
On Tuesday September 3rd we will be brewing this year’s batch of Community Brew. Community Brew is a lightly-hopped pale ale, made with hops from our communities backyard’s all over Guelph. Feel free to drop-in anytime that day, as we invite the community to come in and take part in the brew. It is an excellent opportunity to learn more about the beer-making process from our brewers themselves.
Community Brew Launch Party: Friday September 27th
Join us on Friday September 27th to celebrate the launch of our community’s very own creation. We will have fresh Community Brew on tap in the Ward Room and in bottles to-go. If you took part in any aspect of this process, whether growing hops, coming in the day of the brew, or just joining us to celebrate the launch, we are so grateful to share this Community Brew experience with you.
Written by: Jonathon Barraball