Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Nick's Oshkosh Hop Operation

The Trellis Awaits
A couple blocks from the busted-up corner of Jackson and Murdock, there’s a small garden that stops beer lovers in their tracks. The plot is tended by Nick and he calls it his Hop Operation. At the moment, the operation looks fairly unassuming. The four tall posts that frame the hop trellis, tower above the plants below. Give it a couple months. As this garden reaches full bloom, 20-foot hop vines will form a dense, green curtain that literally drips hop cones.

“This is my third summer growing hops with great results,” Nick says. This year, He’s growing Zeus, Brewers Gold, Willamette, Cascade and Hallertau. If his yield is anything like it was last year, he’s going to have more hops than he’ll know what to do with. “I guess I got about 10 lbs last year off of three second year plants,” Nick says. It was more than he was able to brew with, but that’s no problem. “I say to other hop growers: SHARE! If you have too much, give them to another hombrewer for free! It makes friends and shares the passion and hobby of homebrewing.” He’s not just talking, either. I hadn’t known Nick for 5 minutes before he’d loaded me up with enough Zeus and Brewers Gold to brew several batches of beer.

The New Crop
Nick’s approach to hop growing remains relatively simple. Last year, he dried the hops by spreading them out in the attic of his garage. And he’s not doing anything funny with his soil. “I grow hops organically,” He says. “Why would you want any of those chemicals in your beer? They could mess with the taste.” This year he says he might go a “a little more high-tech” with his drying process, but his hops will definitely remain organic.
Wort Hopping with Nick’s Zeus Hops

As eye catching as his Hop Operation is, Nick still brings it all back to the beer. He says, “Growing your own hops is the best way to brew beer. It's a point to brag about to other homebrewers. They will envy you and it makes the hobby more satisfying.”

We’ll check back in with Nick as the season progresses. He’s off to a fast start that could result in a banner year. More to come.

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