For our final story of IPA May, we present some little known facts about hops.
Hops Are Cloned
Now before you get freaked out about DNA manipulation and GMOs, we’re not talking about that kind of cloning. We mean the kind of cloning that’s so old-fashioned no one even thinks of it as cloning.
Hops are propagated with rootstock and rhizomes. It’s similar to how gardeners grow irises, ginger, tulips and daffodils. What’s planted is genetically identical to the parent.
If we let hops do what comes naturally, the bitterness, aroma and flavor profiles of a variety could vary greatly from generation to generation. But brewers like to know that when they buy a Cascade hop, they’re getting the same quality they did the previous year, or even the previous decade.
Hops Are Females
The other reason to propagate hops is because most brewers want only female rhizomes. If males are present and pollination occurs, then the cones are weighed down with seeds. The seeds make it harder to mill the cones into pellets and may also affect the taste of the beer.
Mother Nature being what it is, you’ll always find some stray males in a hopyard, even when all you planted were females. Every winter at Rogue Farms we search the hopyard for accidental males and remove them.
Hops Have Two Growing Seasons
From when they emerge in early spring, until late June, hops put all their energy into climbing. It’s like a massive race to the sun. In less than four months, a bine will easily grow 18 feet or longer.
But after the summer solstice, a switch occurs. The shortening periods of daylight signal the bines that time is running out. The hops become focused on growing cones.
Other stories in our Know Your Hops series:
Now for the final two varieties of hops we grow at Rogue Farms. The higher the percentage of alpha acids, the more bittering power. A higher percentage of oils means the hop adds aroma and flavor to the beer. Some hops, like our Yaquina, do both.
With less than a month to go before the summer solstice, our hops are climbing like crazy, our Prickless Marionberries are growing berries, our Dream Pumpkins and cucumbers are sprouting and soon we’ll plant our jalapeños. Join us, and see how we grow beer, spirits, ciders and sodas from Ground To Glass.