Getting taller by the day

Besides our aquaponics project another new experiment here at the urban homestead this year is growing hops. We purchased the rhizomes in Spring and the other day I spotted some teensy tiny flowers!   Oh and they aren’t kidding when they say that hops can grow 20 ft in one season.  The vines have just gone crazy, pretty soon they’ll have one of the arbor covered in the backyard.

Look! Baby cones

Not sure this year we’ll get enough for a decent brewing batch but it’s a start. I’m not much of a beer person, but I did sip an ale on our recent trip to New Zealand that certainly did a good job at changing my taste for beer. Being of Belgian decent we figured such a project would be right up our gene pool alley, not to mention it’s been on our “to do” list for ages!

Hops is not just good for making stout but the plant can be used medicinally and some folks even eat the young shoots like asparagus. I’m really interested in the herbal, healing aspects of hops.

Hops have been cultivated to be used in the brewing of beer since at least 1000 A. D., but they also have a mixed history of use in healing. Ancient Hebrews used hops to help ward off plague. In North America, several Native American tribes independently discovered the healing properties of hops and used them as a sedative and sleep aid, to relieve toothache, and to improve digestion. By the end of the 1800s, hops were being routinely used in mainstream medicine in the United States as a sedative and digestive tonic.

Have you grown hops, brewing your own beer or what are your newest/latest “homesteading” projects, care to share?

:: Resources ::

Hops Growing Primer

Hops in the Backyard

Health Benefits of Hops

Benefits of Hops Tea

Encyclopedia of Alternative Medicine: Hops


  1. Melissa says:

    My husband’s family are commercial hop farmers in Washington state! He used to manage the farm. The hops grow and grow and grow, and can get invasive if left unchecked. (My father in law has been known to accidentally spray them with Round-up, and they still don’t die)They are fun and beautiful, in my opinion! I also know that they are hard to grow organically. How do you do it? I would like to grow some at my house but am worried about mildew, rust and mites and don’t want to assault them with a bunch of chemicals.

    • Anais says:

      @Melissa: Wow commercial hops grower huh! This is our first year and knowing, like you said, about the rust and mildew problems – we shall see how it goes. So far so good but they are young. Mildew and rust are tough to combat organically. Sometimes one just has to turn the crop under. Easy to do with squash or beans but hate to pull down a huge vine if that happens.

      • Dog Island Farm says:

        I’ve heard you can combat mildew by spraying plants with a mixture of water and baking soda. It only works as a preventative measure though. Not so great after you’ve got it.

  2. Dog Island Farm says:

    I brew beer quite a bit – along with hard cider. I’m actually brewing some this weekend to enter in a homebrew contest in August at the Eat Real Fest. Our hops just took off (it’s been unseasonbly cold her in NorCal). What variety are you growing? We’re currently growing Cascade Hops, which I find to be fairly universal.

    • Anais says:

      @Dog Island Farm: I think that’s the kind we got too. 😉 Cool here once again too. Doesn’t feel like summer at all (ok I’ll shut up before I jinx anything) Some folks are blaming me for the last heat wave because I ‘complained’ that the beginning of summer was cold, gray and drizzly. Good luck at the homebrew contest. Keep us posted how you place.

  3. Stacy says:

    We inherited a family recipe for beer from my husband’s german side of the house. I discovered it a few days ago again and have started turning the thought of making a batch of beer over in my head. I’m so glad that you shared this information about hops! It’s very timely. The recipe looks very easy. We’re not much for drinking beer, but thought it would still be an interesting experiment. I also discovered the homemade peach brandy recipe! I think I could enjoy that one for a special occasion! Thanks for your diligence to educate us.

    • Anais says:

      @Stacy: You are welcome. That’s pretty neat you inherited an old family recipe! Should be fun for you to whip up an heirloom batch of beer. Happy brewing!

  4. mari says:

    My dad started growing three hops plants this spring. He’s vineing them up the chimney and will give the harvest to my brother who brews beer at home. It’s amazing how fast they grow!

    • Anais says:

      @mari: Wow, there’s certainly a lot of brewmeisters out there. 😉 How many more of our readers are brewing at home?

      • Radhika says:

        @Anais, We brew. I have been thinking about hops for useful summer shade, and this post has inspired me to go get some! 🙂

        • Anais says:

          @Radhika: Neato, keep us posted.

  5. CE says:

    My current project is learning about water storrage and use. We get a lot of rain here but we also have 3 months of drought in the growing season so I need to determine how much water I can store from winter rains and how much I need. I have been looking at putting in a cistern. Rainbarrels are popular but a long row of them could not even make a dent in my summer water needs even though I mulch and conserve and use very careful watering proceedures. I allow what is left of my lawn to go 2/3 brown so it stays alive but is semi dormant and therefore needs little water. I also mulch the lawn so it needs less water. But my vegetable and fruit plants need more than just mulch to keep growing and producing so a cistern looks like my next big project. Anybody out there using a cistern? What do you think of it and how much care does it require?

    • Tonia says:

      I say go for the cistern. We had one growing up.Go for it.

  6. Dan Langhoff says:

    Make sure to keep them watered. I am in Ramona, California South of you a bit and my hop rhizomes did well for two years, then kind of dwindled off in yield and growth. When I lived up in Oregon in the Willamette valley, my hops grew to the chimney of our two-story house with little effort by me! One thing about growing hops in Southern California is that rust and spider mites do not seem to be a factor. Best of luck to you!

    • Anais says:

      @Dan Langhoff: We submerged ollas so that should help with the water. Keeping our fingers crossed.

  7. HGFood says:

    Hops grow like Jack’s Bean Stalk, I have some next to my house. At the beginning of the season I attach a few cords to a hook on the peak of my house above the hops for them to climb up. When it comes to harvest time I cut the vines off above the ground and cut the cords loose from the roof. Then I bag it all up and all head to the porch open a nice bottle of home-brew and sort out the cones/hops from the vines for making more beer. I usually have way too many for me so I’m always giving them to other home-brewers. One time I took them into the office to use the postal scale to weigh some bags full for friends. My co-workers had a great laugh as they took a double take seeing me weighing up baggies of green buds.LOL When I brew beer I save the spent yeast from cleaning out the fermentation bucket. The spent yeast once dried is a great supplement for you chickens feed. It’s just like the brewers yeast that some buy at the health food store.
    Have a Great Day!!

    • Anais says:

      @HGFood: We are looking forward to having TOO many buds! There’s so many uses, like the tip about the chicken feed. Thanks!

  8. Tara says:

    This is our second year growing hops in Colorado (one each of cascade, golding, nugget, and willamette) and we haven’t had any problems with mildew or rust. Last year, we harvested enough to brew a year’s worth of beer, but there weren’t any left over to check out medicinal uses. I can’t believe the way these things grow, they seem to be OK whether it’s wet, dry, hot, cold, windy, whatever. We have to prune them regularly or they would create a jungle.

    • Anais says:

      @Tara: We could use a aggressive, useful vine here at the urban homestead. Especially for summertime shade!

  9. Laura Jeanne @ Getting There says:

    I have never grown hops or brewed beer but it’s something my husband and I would like to do someday. I look forward to reading about your future brewing endeavors!

    • Anais says:

      @Laura Jeanne @ Getting There: Us too LOL

  10. Kevin says:

    Figured I’d weigh in because I just discovered your site today and am an instant huge fan, and I also may start dabbling in brewing now that my fruit wine making is in full swing.

    Look forward to following the work you folks do, and catching up on the YEARS of posting you’ve already done.

  11. Annette Triplett @ CoMo Homestead says:

    What a fun project!

  12. Janelle says:

    We are planning on growing hops next year, but North Carolina doesn’t have a very good climate for it, so we’ll see what happens. There’s a hops research project at NC State University that is looking at varieties that are best for our region. This year will be a good test, as it has been very hot and humid.

    There’s a batch of IPA chugging away at home, and our first batch of mead. We can hardly wait!

  13. Hazel says:

    Hops are on my list of plants to grow, for beer and making hop pillows (very sedative). At the moment, I do forage wild hop shoots in the spring- quite tasty braised, and I also put them in risotto (Risotto di bruscandoli).

  14. Sharon says:

    Anais, thanks for always keeping us in the loop! We are just a couple miles east of you, so really keep an ear to the ground about how & what you are doing. I got very close to starting to brew beer this year, even starting some hops in the backyard, but stopped when I realized that (from what I could tell) that I would have to buy ‘commercial yeast’. (Have been making sourdough bread exclusively for about a year now, ditto on yogurt…) Are you planning on buying commercial yeast, or are you going to try starting a wild batch of beer? I can’t seem to find organic commercial yeast… Would love to know what your plan is!
    Thanks, Sharon

    • Anais says:

      @Sharon: Good question, guess that’s a bit of a ways off. They say the first year you really don’t get enough cones to brew a batch. Hey readers, any thoughts on this?

    • Wayne says:

      @Sharon, your best bet for organic yeast in the US would probably be Seven Bridges ( (I’m from Australia so I don’t know of any other organic brewing suppliers in the US ).
      Personally I don’t bother with organic yeast since the yeast does not end up in the finished product, only its output 🙂

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