Video: Are Hops Cones Really Cones?

We call them hops cones, but are they really cones?  The short answer is no! In this video, I review the structure of hops cones along with the compounds they possess that give beer its pleasant taste. When I think of cones, I think of pine cones but a hops cone is more correctly called a strobilus. The papery leaflike structures on the outside are called bracts, they are modified leaves and are there for protection.  Just beneath are the even smaller leaflike structures called bracteoles.  Here is where the magic happens because on these bracteoles grow lupulin glands which synthesize the alpha and beta acids that give beer its bitterness and aroma.

As summer passes and fall begins, it is time to start thinking about harvesting your hops! You should expect to begin harvesting sometime between mid-August and September. As the cones reach maturity, the tips of the cones will begin to turn light brown.  First-year plants may produce as much as ½ pound of hops, while established plants can produce more than 2 pounds per year.

If you are interested in hops, then please watch this video.

Hopping Good Times

hops-cones

Common Hops, Humulus lupulus, is a species of flowering plant that belongs to the Cannabaceae or hemp family. It is a native to Europe and is cultivated in North America as well.  The sexes are separate or dioecious with the female plant’s strobili (pictured above) being of economic importance. The male staminate flowers do not have petals. Hops rely on wind-pollination of flowers. The plant is a herbaceous perennial climbing plant which sends up new shoots in early spring and dies back to a cold-hardy rhizome (underground stem) in autumn. You can find leaves with 1, 3, 5, and 7 lobes on the same plant. Plants can produce up to 20 years.

The female cone-shaped fruits from H. lupulus are used by breweries.  The fragrant flower cones, known as hops, impart a bitter flavor, and also have aromatic and preservative qualities. Hops are also used for various purposes in other beverages.

Hops plants grow best in the latitude range of 38°-51° (growing zones 5 – 8) in full sun with moderate amounts of rainfall and nutrient-rich soil with good drainage. Plants use the long summer days as a cue for when to flower around July or August. Plants can grow up to 30 feet tall and are typically suspended by free-standing poles or lattices will trellising twine.

Any hop rhizomes you buy will be female. Male hop plants are not cultivated.  Spring is the best time to plant hops.  First-year plants expend energy growing roots with only a few cones possible.  By the second year, you should see a marked increase in cones.

Chmelnice

A commercial hops yard using a trellis and pole system to suspend hops plants.

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