Searching for the line between "hobby" and "obsession"

Winterizing the hop bines

Back on 10/30/11, I decided it was finally time to take down my hop bines for the year. I did a little research on how to prep them for winter and in an effort to be able to cut rhizomes for friends in the spring. Since there seems to be a lot of conflicting information out there on how to best go about cutting rhizomes, I took all the most common threads and combined them to create an action plan.

I cut my bines down to roughly 6-12″ from the ground, dug small trenches for the above-ground sections and buried them as best I could. I set a brick on top of each of the buried bines to get them to stay under the soil without having to bend them at too harsh an angle. Then I took leaves I’d raked and piled them 6″ over the buried bines, finally covering the leaves with burlap and securing everything with another brick or two. And now, we play the waiting game until March/April. 

I can see on most of the bines where the little red rhizome nubs are already trying to get started. The cold weather will cease all progress very soon if not having done so already. The nubs should be visible in the pictures below:

Got a mix of about 2 oz. wet / .75 oz. dried hops off the bines as I took them down 10/30


6 responses

  1. Rochelle

    Thanks for all of the great posts. I live in Western NC and am trying to help get the hops rhizome business going. I think it has great potential since Asheville has so many breweries. I’d love to know more about what you felt the pros/cons were for the green hops. Best of luck, Rochelle at Unaka Valley Farm and Creamery

    November 21, 2011 at 7:23 am

    • Hey Rochelle, thanks for your comment. I’m actually just starting to taste the batch of wet-hopped beer I made exclusively with my hops. Post forthcoming! I can say for sure though that the Yakima Valley varieties (Cascade, Centennial, Chinook) grew the best here in Minnesota during the first season. Northern Brewer and Hallertau did not fare well in season one.

      November 21, 2011 at 2:14 pm

      • My instructor says that those varieties did well here, as well, and I look forward to creating her same success with rhizomes that produced hops the first year. It will be a great experiment, to be sure. I look forward to reading future posts.

        November 28, 2011 at 7:45 am

  2. Thanks Rochelle! I think cone production in the first year is definitely realistic. I’ve read that the first year’s yield is insignificant compared to the yield in the years following, but you’ll almost certainly get some in the first year. I got over 20 oz. dried off of five plants. I was very happy with that.

    November 28, 2011 at 9:28 am

    • George M

      Grant…read your 2011 comments about covering the mature bines for winter…interesting because I am doing that as well…hops are an intrusive plant….those of us who trim them back for the winter know that you should discard them because (and I quote the experts) “…be certain to toss your fall clippings in the compost pile or burn them because they are very intrusive and if left on the ground you will find them growing in places you don’t want them to…” Well. when you uncover them you will have some fine “rhizomes” that are mature and less at-risk than the new ones you will normally dig for…and thus you can expand your hops field better, or give to friends…(by the way I checked with a few locaal mini/micro breweries and their purchasing habits and they mostly purchase Zeus, Fuggle, Willamette, and Cascade…which I now grow…I also grow small side crops of barley… and malt it)

      George (Somerset, WI)

      August 2, 2014 at 10:53 am

      • Good call, George! Glad you’re having success with a variety of hops. I just moved from Minneapolis to Oakland, CA this summer and had to leave my bines behind. The new owner of my house isn’t a homebrewer so they’re probably doomed! Oh well. The plants produced around 5 lbs. dried in 2012 (with Hallertau still producing almost nothing). In 2013, they all went crazy including Hallertau. Took 3 seasons, which is pretty normal I guess. I wasn’t able to harvest in 2013, unfortunately. Too busy.

        The house i’m now renting in Oakland has a very small back yard without much southern exposure, so my hop-growing is on hiatus until we buy a house out here in a few years. Right now my goal is just to get my space setup for brewing again.

        Thanks for your comment!

        August 3, 2014 at 3:51 pm

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