Post-Season Hops: Ramp up to Read

By: Kimberly Fontenot

Is there a leading-edge post-season technique to make next year’s hop growing, harvesting and distributing more streamlined and profitable? There are always leaders in the industry who step up, take the risk and invest in the next season with new and improved methods for hop growing.  Their plan of action usually contains strategies they’ve discovered with information not yet widely disseminated, which can bring them and the hop industry prosperity, growth and development.

When leaders within the hop industry concentrate on what needs to change or develop for better crop development, they do so knowing the key to success is ramping up during the post-season to acquire and implement new equipment or processes.

Ziemann Holvrieka, worldwide manufacturers of turnkey breweries, brewhouses and fermentation tanks, developed the Hop Back, a dosing vessel with an integrated sieve unit that provides dynamic hot wort hopping suitable for cone hops. Their Hop Slurry is a stainless-steel vessel that pumps, doses and controls fluid through pellets with the different flow direction.

Left Field Hops

Some growers implement strategies for the upcoming season immediately after harvest. They have learned if you wait, you may no longer be a part of the hop breeders, developers or distributors that are on the precipice of an unlimited future.

Rebecca Kneen of Left Field Hops in Canadian province British Columbia is one of those growers leading the pack in preseason preparation. She said there are plenty of tasks to complete during fall and winter to ensure idea rhizome propagation and hop health and keep growers ahead of the game.

“As a rhizome propagator and seller we make sure we do our fall applications of compost and kelp mean on each plant to allow integration of nutrients and bacteria into the soil,” said Kneen. “Fall planting of green manure crops (in particular fall rye) is done for ground cover over winter and added nutrients in the spring. Fall is also the time to check and tighten trellising. Over winter, consider how to adapt your growth strategies for spring, and make sure you have sufficient supply of anchors, twine, compost and cover crop seed.”

Kneen has a keen eye for what needs to change in the BC hop industry, and how to change it.

“We have a history in BC of over-planting one or two varieties (BC Golding for example), creating both a serious risk of vulnerability to disease and a lack of genetic diversity. We already see some issues with growers finding viruses and mildews in plants propagated in nurseries claiming to be part of the Clean Plant Network and having those plants distributed widely, contaminating a lot of new plantings. What is needed at this point is better oversight of nurseries so that plants being propagated are in fact free of disease, and more encouragement of the growing and use of more varieties.”

Mighty Axe Hops

There are many hop breeders with insights into improving not only their operations but also providing techniques, strategies and lessons learned to other hops breeders, farmers, distributors and entities. Eric Sannerud, farmer and CEO at Mighty Axe Hops is happy to provide advice to other growers for their off-season preparation.

“We make sure they all have a decent blanket of soil covering the crowns as additional winter insurance. We also mow down all the dead material from this growing season, one less thing you gotta do in the spring,” said Sannerud.

Sannerud is a leader in the Minnesota hops industry, encouraging future growth within the industry through partnerships between hop growers and brewers. “Mighty Axe Hops is already vetting for commercial production in the state of Minnesota, and we are leading that charge,” he said.

HAAS/Barth-HAAS Group

HAAS/Barth-HAAS Group takes a different approach to hop growing. As the world’s largest supplier of hops, they have the capabilities and resources to provide the most cutting-edge innovations and methods to their members. In addition to being a hops supplier, HAAS is also a breeder and research brewery with a focus on helping hop growers and brewers be their absolute best.

Roy Johnson, National Sales Manager with HAAS/Barth-HAAS Group, told Beverage Master Magazine that even though methods don’t change, their goals are always moving.

“We don’t change the irrigation or trellis management from one year to the next, but change out poles when needed. We haven’t had to change how we pelletize either for a while as this is consistent with us,” Johnson said. “However, we are seeing a thirty percent increase over last year in our Citra hops, so we are making adjustments to meet that hops growth rate in our post-harvest plans for the 2019 season.” By seeing the future and making plans to challenge themselves, HAAS/Barth-HAAS Group shows why they have consistently conquered and led the market.

Producing crops or products for any industry and taking the lead to help find solutions to current and potential problems, and sharing those solutions, will often lead to a healthier, more supportive industry. When others are aware and can learn from the intelligent, informed decisions made by a grower or developer, it benefits the end user as well.

Hard Work, Innovation and Timing

The post-season harvest has become one of the most critical times of the year for growers. This pivotal time allows growers to address any issues that they faced over the previous season and solve them using proven and innovated techniques.

Hop demand is as high as its ever been going into the 2019 season. The popularity of craft beer is not waining, and the need for hops will continue to grow. However, success is not guaranteed for every grower. Successful hops growers risk trying new things, strategizing and creating innovative developments to improve the crops and the bottom line. Those who never improve, develop or grow creatively, no matter how marketable the industry, will not meet the demands of the industry.

No one can tell the future, and you won’t know what sort of headaches you may face during the 2019 hops season until its here. However, using this post-season to solve what went wrong in 2018 will significantly lessen problems in the future. Invest in yourself by focusing on improving your operations, gaining more experience and create more hop innovations. Strategize, design and implement a unique plan of action. The new and innovative things you try will result in you looking after those who look after you–the customers. Grow for them because, in the end, they are the ones who not only grow your business but the industry as well.

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