Growing Hops

This is our hop plant. We have named her Eleanor. 

Wednesday evening the Brooklyn Brewery hosted a discussion on hops growing, featuring Jaclyn Van Bourgondien and Andrew Tralka, a husband and wife team who launched Farm to Pint in 2012, a hops farm in Peconic, Long Island.

In the late 1800s, 80 percent of all hops in the US were grown in New York State. It was interesting to hear Bourgondien and Tralka’s take on their desire to join the wave of people who are trying to make New York State the hops producer it once was.

“We’re re-learning the nature of how to do it,” said Van Bourgondien, who noted that the pair have learned the trade from farmers on West Coast and the few that do exist in New York.

Hops are vines that grow vertically and twist as they grow, called bines. To grow them, rhizomes (small pieces of roots that are cut from the root system of other hops) are planted, out of which sprout the new vines. Hops need full sun and can grow up to 12 inches per day. They wrap clockwise around coirs, long lengths of twine that stretch from the ground up to a trellis structure. Hop bines can grow upwards of 18 feet tall. At a hop farm, you’ll see rows and rows of hop bines, all climbing up coirs that are attached to a trellis, kept in place by large wooden posts.

“Our goal is to be as sustainable as possible,” Van Bourgondien continued. She and Tralka accomplish sustainability and eco-consciousness by using untreated wood for the posts and biodegradable coir made of coconut fiber.

Farm to Pint and is part of a movement of farmers and brewers committed to using as many local products as possible, encouraged by the Farm Brewery law, which went into effect this January. By using at least 20 percent of locally grown ingredients, a brewery can get a Farm Brewery license. In 12 years, that percentage will be up to 90.

“So 12 years from now you could choose to buy a New York beer,” said Van Bourgondien. “It’s pretty cool and exciting.”

It really is. But for now, we’re going to plant Eleanor, our Cascade hop plant, and see what happens.

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