Hops: A plant that produces no seeds and flavors beer. Just in time for the KLCC Brewfest February 9th and 10th at the Lane Events Center in Eugene, KLCC’s John Fisher takes a close look at hops in this month’s Good Gardening.
Hi , John Fischer here with KLCC's good gardening. (Beer opens and pours) It's a sound most of us are familiar with. And a major flavor component of beer and ale is hops- or are hops.
Hops only started being used in beer about a thousand years ago. The discovery of their preservative qualities, along with their bitter flavor allowed them to replace the formerly used set of bitter herbs. Beer purity laws in Germany allow nothing but malt, water, and hops. Yeast was an unknown part of the equation back then.
But back to hops- a plant that grows best around the 45th parallel. That's why Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and formerly New York and Massachusetts are the big hop growing states in the U.S.
If you plant hops, provide good support, and stand back. Hops can grow 20 feet or more each season, and the plants can live for 50. Hops can make a great seasonal sun screen. And the plants will not spread seed and new sprouts everywhere because unless you are a hop breeder, you will only be growing female vines. Starts are available at local nurseries, or you can take sprouts from a friends plants.
The herbal and flavor value of hops comes from their "cones" which are really flowers, and those flowers grow only on female vines. The Lupulin in hops not only gives beer it's distinctive taste, herbalists use it as a sleep aid, and it is one of the anti-bacterial ingredients in the plant that allows home brewers to keep their fresh beer for six months or more.
Hops are native to both Europe, and North America, and some of the multi-continental cross varieties like Willamette, and Cascade have leapt back across the Atlantic, and are now used in European beers.
You can try local beers made with both dried, and fresh hops, and learn more about the plant, at this weekends KLCC Brew Fest.