Beer-lovers around the world are quite familiar with this luscious flowering bine (not vine!) that provides the aroma and flavor to their beloved brews. Did you know that hops also provides a natural preservative necessary to prevent decay during the fermentation process? Well, now you do! Varieties of hops are often distinguished by the number of lobes present on their leaves and lead to different flavors and styles of beer. In the garden, hops enjoys a range of climates but will do best in USDA Zones 5–9. They have extensive bine and root systems above and below ground and thus require plenty of space on both sides of the soil. Flowering is initiated when the plant reaches a certain height, usually between 10–25′. Although hops are primarily famous for making beer, the flowers are entirely edible and can also be used in cooking.
This hop variety sounds like something Harry Potter would’ve studied in herbology at Hogwarts, which is quite fitting since some brewers consider Fuggle hops truly magical! Discovered in the UK in the late 1800s, it became the dominant hops for commercial beer production and is still considered the most famous British hop on the market today. The US variety has a much stronger flavor than its British cousin, but both possess the same notes of herbs and fruit that makes the Fuggle varietal so popular. Although low-yielding, Fuggle hops store extremely well and are considered hardy in USDA Zones 3–8. Great for making red ales, brown ales, and (you guessed it!) English ales.
Seed: Not recommended.
Vegetative: Commonly propagated by taking cuttings of runners that grow just below the soil surface. These are known as rhizomes, and each one must contain several buds, from which new growth will sprout. This process preserves precious genetic information and characteristics from parent to clone.
Rhizome Depth: 8–12″
Space Between Plants: 3–5′
Space Between Rows: 7′
Sprouting Soil Temperature: 70–75 °F
Days for Sprouting: 49–56
Sow Indoors: In areas with long winters, plant indoors in early spring. Transplant outdoors in late spring after average last frost date.
Sow Outdoors: After all danger of frost has passed, in areas with long growing seasons.
As the Fuggle varietal hails from England, it prefers regions with similar temperate, wetter climates: like those of the US Pacific Northwest. Mild winters with a good amount of precipitation will result in optimal yields from your plant. If you live in a region with cold winters, be sure to insulate your bines in temperatures below freezing by mulching heavily around the base.
Natural: Full sun to partial shade.
Artificial: Grows well under high pressure sodium HID lamps. Provide 12 hours light per day to induce flowering.
Soil: Grows best in loamy soils. A mildly acidic soil of a pH 6.0–6.2 is ideal but hops can withstand pH levels as high as 8.
Soilless: Germinate seeds in a soilless mix that contains perlite, vermiculite or coco coir to assist with maintaining soil structure and providing good drainage.
Hydroponics: Like its close cousin, cannabis, hops thrives in hydroponic systems.
Aeroponics: Thrives in an aeroponics system.
Water: Requires moderate to high levels of water. During their first year of growth, water frequently but not excessively. After a strong root system is established, they will prefer deeper, less frequent waterings. To avoid foliar fungal infection, drip irrigation systems are recommended.
Nutrients: Requires high levels of nutrients. Needs plenty of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. Apply manure and compost to soil regularly.
Pruning: Trimming bines to avoid some lovin’ between different strains is essential for a pure crop, if you’re growing multiple varieties. This can be done once or twice monthly. After flowers are harvested, trim the entire plant back to about 3 feet tall. When the first frost kills the tops of plants, remove all growth down to the soil level.
Mulching: Use mulch to retain soil moisture and suppress weed growth. Maintain a 1″ layer around the base of each hop plant. Use an even thicker layer of a light mulch like straw throughout the frosty winter to protect the underground portion of the plant so it will come back in the spring.
Support: Provide bines with a trellis or pole for support, and train plants up it by wrapping them clockwise around it.
Rotation: Regrowing annually from its underground rhizome, one hops plant can live for over 25 years, so no worries here.
Companions: Grows well with nitrogen-fixing legume plants such as clover, vetch, or peas. This will keep the soil mildly acidic while delivering a steady stream of nitrogen to the soil.
Harvest: Harvest hops in early to mid July. You will get a more bountiful harvest from bines which are at least two years old. Hops receiving more sun are likely to mature faster, which makes several harvests a strong possibility. A ready flower (or, to be scientifically accurate, “cone”) can be distinguished best by feel. Soft green cones are under-ripe and dry brittle cones are too mature. Perfect cones will express a dry hardness when squeezed; they are also described as light and papery.
Storage: Dry hops and store in a plastic bag or airtight container. These can be kept in a freezer to extend shelf life, but be sure not to thaw and refreeze. See Helpful Links for a manual on drying hops.
Fun Fact: Hops are used in beers in different ways, so we recommend knowing what you’re looking for from a hop before you plant. Generally, hops can be categorized into two groups: aroma hops and bitter hops. Aroma hops, like the Fuggle, are added to beer during the conditioning stage (a maturation period) to improve the bouquet, while bitter hops are added during the boiling stage to increase bitterness. Some hops are considered dual purpose since they can be added at either stage of the process.
Preserve: Dry hops using a dehydrator or oven set to low. You can even use a solar dehydrator.
Prepare: Make beer, of course! Young leaves can also be eaten in salads and contain rutin, which is also found in apples and is a natural anti-inflammatory and antioxidant.
Nutritional: Contains vitamin(s) B6, E and C, which are anti-oxidants that help prevent the damages associated with aging.
Medicinal: Lupulin powder obtained from the hop flower has been used for anxiety and exhaustion and promotes sleep. Lately, other possible medicinal benefits have come to light, such as potential to treat diabetes, obesity, tuberculosis, and gastrointestinal discomfort. Hops produce multiple essential oils such as mycerene and humuline which possess antiseptic properties and aid in pain relief. Phytoestrogens, which promote bone health and milk production in nursing mothers, are also present in hop flowers.
Warnings: Beware of contact dermatitis from foliage. Hops are actually toxic to dogs, so keep your furry friends away from your crops if they have a tendency to turn your garden into a salad bar.
What better way to use your English hops than in an English ale? While you should probably read up a bit on home brewing first (if you’re new to the game), give it a go with one of these English Style Brews.
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