Friday, August 26, 2011

Hops Harvest 2011

Picking hops by lamplight, August 2011.
One day last week I got a message from my friend Jared inviting us to the "Hops Harvest" that evening.  Jared's message said that there was home-brewed beer on tap, fresh zucchini bread, and live entertainment in the form of mandolin music played by his wife Amy.  My husband was already on his way home from the office, so there was no time to ask his opinion.  (I refuse to call him on his cell phone when I know he's driving.) Luckily, I was pretty sure he'd like the idea so I called Jared to let him know we were coming and set our plan in motion.  Early dinner for children-- check.  Early baths for children-- check.  Packing up our homemade oatmeal bars and chocolate-covered orange peel to share with friends-- check.

When my husband walked in the door he was confronted with three excited faces urging him to quickly eat his dinner so we could head out on our surprise.  He looked so concerned that I ended up spilling the beans in one giant breath, "we'vebeeninvitedtoamyandjared'shouseforthehopsharvest! COME ON, LET'S GO!"  He still seemed a little confused, but ready and willing.  

Jared harvests hop vines, 2011.
We had no idea what to expect from a hops harvest.  I watched Jared harvest hops last year and it was a one-man operation.  I knew that the hops had been growing like gangbusters this year and couldn't wait to see what was going on at Wiseacre Farms (otherwise known as Amy and Jared's house.)  The girls had no idea what hops were, but they were thrilled to be out at night, knowing that they'd get to stay up long past their bedtime.  As it turns out, harvesting hops is fun... and a little sticky.

By the time we got to Wiseacre Farms, Jared had already cut down most of the hop vines.  This was good because they're pretty unwieldy.  The leaves are prickly, like blackberry leaves, but there are no thorns on the vines themselves.  The hop buds are the part you need for making beer-- they're little green cones, but they aren't hard like pine cones.  Technically they're flowers and they're part of the cannabis family.  Inside the "petals" of the hop flower are little bits of sticky stuff called lupulin-- that's the part that gives the beer it's bitter taste.  From what I understand, the bitterness of the hop balance out the sweetness of the malt.  I can't tell you exactly what the hops taste like (I've never had beer WITHOUT hops), but I can tell you that they smell fresh and green and lovely.

We all had a great time at the hops harvest and we were proud to see the bucket of hops almost completely full by the time we left.  Jared later told me that he ended up with 19 ounces of dried hops.  When we were on the way home, my youngest daughter said, "We have to do that again.  I want to do that AGAIN!"  I promised her we would.  Next year.
Bucket of hops at the end of the harvest, August 2011.