After an up and down year, that ended on an up note, the hop yard has been closed up for the winter. As my loyal readers may recall, early spring brought the promise of a big harvest as the third year hops reached the top of the trellis in only four weeks. Alas, six weeks of nearly continuous rain came close to spelling disaster.
In the end, half of the third year hops were drowned out. But an unexpected boost came when about half of the first year plants produce hops. The net result was a greater harvest than the previous year, but still less than the promise of spring. Such is the lot of the farmer.
So far, I have brewed two beers with this year's harvest. The first is the New England Cream Lager, which has exceeded all expectation in terms of flavor and hop character. I have never had a beer that has hop flavor like this one. It is like plucking a flower off the vine and popping it in your mouth. The second is another experimental beer that is on the boil as I write these words. Needless to say, I have high hopes for this beer too.
I confess to a bit of sadness as I took down the support lines and cut the dried vines. The surviving third year plants left stumps like small trees. I need to remind myself that this is just the natural cycle and that each stump represents a future harvest.
As I cut down the dried vines, I, once again, caught the aroma of fresh hops. It was the plants were telling me not to worry. We will all meet again in spring.