During the previous two trips that we made to Azores we had discussions about the land surrounding our town and how many years ago the hills were covered in grape vines. Luis Costa, the grandfather of Terra Costa founder, Mark Costa made his own wine from the grapes that were grown in the terraces that adorned the sides of the mountains. It was through these conversations that we knew it was only right that we built on our hobby of home brewing and explore growing our own hops.
The long term goal would be to plant hops in the fertile volcanic soil that can be accessed on land that is still in the Costa name in Faial da Terra. But first, we needed to figure out how to grow these things and how we can control and understand the growth while residing in two different countries.
We started growing hops in the spring of 2016. After researching numerous hop farms in the United States and consulting with other home brewers in our area we settled on trying out Nugget hops. We ordered our rhizomes from a farm in Oregon called Crosby Hops.
Planted in early May, our Nugget hops reached for the top of the makeshift terrace in our yard and have grown to about 7' feet. New Jersey gets very humid in the summer so we wanted to test the waters with a strong type of hop and the Nugget has performed rather well. It is known that the plants fail to produce a usable crop in the first year but, we are off to a good start.
When our hops are matured and able to be harvested, we plan on utilizing them in special batches in the near future. Until then we will continue to perfect our skills of hop farming, explore tactics in regards to transporting rhizomes to Azores and of course continue to daydream about planting hops on our land which will result in a finished product we can share with our family and friends overseas.
Year two of our Nugget hops brought a great surprise. The first year we only saw just a few cones appearing on our bines. By late June cones began to explode in clusters throughout our plants. We let the clusters grow for the whole summer and performed our first harvest in early September.
Planting and learning how to tend to hops was the first step. Now that we had hops it was time to do some research on what to actually do with cones. We picked each cone delicately by hand which took a few hours under flood lights on a warm September evening. We then took our cones and dried them out for a few days using an old window screen. At the end of the harvest we yielded a little over 6 oz of fresh whole hops.
Now that we actually had cones to work with, we took to our brewing software and formulated a beer suited for our homegrown hops. "Homegrown Single Hop IPA" was officially born. A smooth IPA brewed with our very own Nugget hops! We also expanded our growing a little this season as we planted some Cascade variety in a separate bed.
Looking forward to see what next year brings!