How To Train Hops
If stringing the Hopyard is our biggest chore of spring, then training day comes in close second.
Training day at the Rogue Farms Hopyard actually runs almost a week. The work is slow and done by hand. There is no machine to speed things up.
But without training, there’d be no harvest. Enough said.
So here’s what we do to train our hops and why it’s so important.
This is the Rogue Farms Hopyard version of a blank canvas. Thousands of strings between the soil and the trellis wires – but nothing growing on them.
Hop bines don’t grow on strings naturally, they have to be given a head start. Farm hands stop at each string, choose the best 3 or 4 looking bines and then wrap them around the string and tie them in place.
They are always wrapped clockwise. This allows the bines to follow the sun throughout the day and throughout the growing season. A good trellis system will give the hops as much exposure to the sun as possible.
The system of wires and poles we use at the Rogue Farms Hopyard was developed in California in the late 1800s. Some early growers experimented with trellises that resembled what you see in vineyards. But the California system was better suited to Pacific Northwest hops.
Hops attach themselves to the strings with tiny hairs so small that they’re hard to see without a magnifying glass. But run your hand along a bine in the wrong direction – and you’ll feel them. Rough like a cat’s tongue. When picking was done by hand in the first half of the 20th century, pickers always wore gloves and long sleeves to prevent the hair from leaving scars and rashes on their skin.
Women hand picking hops at the Wigrich Ranch near Independence, Oregon in 1921. Long sleeves and gloves protected pickers from tiny hairs on the bines that irritated the skin.
Once tied in place, the bines will figure out the rest of the way up the strings and over the trellis wires. At the peak of the summer growing season, when the sun is out more than 15 hours a day, a hop bine can grow one foot from morning to night.
When it’s time to harvest, the strings, wires and poles will be overflowing with hops. But only if we train them first.
Please join us at the Rogue Farms Hopyard this summer to have some beer and watch the hops grow!