The Brew Shop

Drink proud. Love local. Brew well.

Homemade Hops Trellis - We Need Your Help!

Spring is upon us and for many a homebrewer, this means one thing – hop rhizome time.  We need your help with the design of our homemade trellis, which will only be 9 feet tall, as opposed to the 15-20 feet hops like to grow.  Lots of details below, but feel free to skip to the last paragraph to see our quandary!

Two years back, my husband decided to take the journey of planting a rhizome or two in the yard.  Now I’m sure I will get painted as “classic wife” for being skeptical of his planting something that grows like crazy in the yard, but I want to take a quick second to show a picture of what our yard looked like when we moved in (sooooo many things growing out of control) and about a year and a half later.

I will spare you the picture of my poison ivy...

I will spare you the picture of my poison ivy...

You can’t see our blood, sweat, and tears in that “after” picture, but trust me they are there.  So after some negotiation on location of the hops, for the past two years we’ve had some Cascade hops growing along our chain link fence in a part of the yard that gets good sun in the morning and that’s about it.  Fast forward two years, and I am in the process of opening The Brew Shop and have a much greater appreciation for the fact that hops like to grow up (not stretch out lengthwise along a fence) and want tons of sun.  So another round of negotiation resulted in my husband expanding his hop growth to include all four C’s (Cascade, Centennial, Columbus, and Chinook) and to relocate them to a part of the yard that gets good sun throughout the day.  In order to accomplish the goals of vertical growth and sun, he had to build a hops trellis in the yard.

As you can see, he has done a great job making this thing look classy.  (Well, to anyone who knows what it is, it looks classy.  Most of the neighbors just slow their pace and stare at it in confusion on their way by.)  So what exactly are you looking at here?  First he built the planter boxes, using pressure treated fence pickets, which happened to be cheaper than the regular pressure treated lumber.  The sizing was a bit odd, but pretty close to 1” x 6”.  He built four boxes and placed (dug down a bit) the 2’ x 2’ boxes two feet apart.  Then he got two 12 foot poles and put them 3 feet into the ground on each end of the planter boxes, leaving two 9-foot poles as the ends for the trellis.  He strung steel cable across the top between the two poles, using a carabiner at each end so the cable can easily be taken down at harvest time.

He then tied twine from the base of the boxes up to the steel cable, for the hops to grow on.  He transplanted the Cascade rhizome from its old home to the new sunnier spot a couple weeks back.  The other rhizomes just came this weekend, so he got those into the ground and mulched around them.  As you can see, the Cascade hops are already taking off.

Now this is where we need your help.  The poles are only 9 feet in height, but hops typically grow more like 15 – 20 feet up.  Right now, he has added another piece of twine about halfway up the poles with the idea that when a particular hop vine gets too close to the steel cable up top, he will cut that string, allowing it to drape over the twine that is coming across the middle of the trellis; then tie additional twine to the piece that was just cut (and is now down on the ground), running it back up to the steel cable on top.  This should give the hops the chance to grow a total of 18 feet up, in theory.  But we are hoping that some of you can provide some input, whether from personal experience, things you’ve read, or even just ideas that you have.  In theory, we think what’s there will work, but what do you think??