Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The Helderberg Hop Farm is born.

The Helderberg Hop Farm started in 2012 with 112 hills of hops.  50 Brewers Gold, 50 Centennial, 4 Cascade and 8 Heirloom Helderberg hops.  I planted  Cascades, Fuggles, Saza and Willlamit 20 years ago with only the Cascades surviving.  Last year I planted the pilot yard of 50 Brewer’s Gold and 50 Centennials to see if I could do this on a larger scale.
The Brewer’ Gold and Centennials were chosen for two reasons.  One they are both reasonably disease resistant and I wanted to have a high alpha aroma hop (Centennial) and good hardy bittering hop (Brewer’s Gold).  Also I had read that Brewer’s Gold was an old variety that was once grown in New York.

As word of my new adventure got out I received an email from Daniel Driscoll.  He wanted to know if I would be interested in having some heirloom helderberg hop rhizomes.  Well sure I would take a few.  I was thinking of planting a few hops along the end of our barn as a way to make a little shade for a beer garden.  First year hops are not that productive.  You might get enought cones for some home brew.  The Brewer’s Gold produced about a 2lbs of cones the Centennial’s about ¼ lb. The Cascades after 20 years of producing very well where a disaster.  Cones all turned brown two weeks before harvest.  Upon close examination it a periers the irrigation line running to them got clogged. They must have heard this was no longer a hobby and was going to be farming.  The Helderberg Hops produced 2lbs of cones.  From 8 first year rhizomes.   That gave me enough to send a good dry sample to Alpha Analytics which is the hop testing part of Hop Union in Yakima, WA for testing.  

What would the test show?

We know that Adriaen van der Donck reported to the patroon Kiliaen van Rensselaer that wild hops were growing here in 1642.  We know that the English and the Dutch had brought hops over very early on.   I have read the some varieties grown here were Cluster, Pearl and Brewer’s Gold.  I was really hoping they were not Brewer’s Gold.  The test came back as Alpha 5.7 and Beta 3.4  
The closest corresponding hop variety is Cluster.  Alpha 5.5 and Beta 4.5
So there you have it a local climatized survivor from the last century.  
The word from Mr. Driscoll is
that he got these hops in 1970 from Earl & Alvina Williamson in Berne, NY.

And the Helderberg Hop Farm is born.

This year we will be planting a full acre of hops.  1000 hills in all.  We will have 5 varieties.
Nugget, Centennial, Brewer’s Gold, Cascade and The Helderberg Hop (Cluster)