Dec 31, 2017
As 2017 winds down, we thought we'd take a minute to reflect on the year past and look forward to the future.
The start of 2017 found us with a small hop yard planted, but without having ever grown a single hop plant. It was a real leap of faith for us to prepare for an additional 1 acre before we had our first harvest. But that's what we did. A winter of researching, planning, and acquiring.
As soon as the ground thawed, we hit it hard. 3 months more or less of every weekend culminating in the stringing of the hop yard in mid May. We had great enthusiasm and high hopes for hops.
The reality of first year hops was a hard lesson to learn. We expected massive plants reaching to the wire, and cash falling from the sky. Instead we found plants establishing root systems and competing with the weeds. We did our diligence in validating the soil conditions, verifying the irrigation system was performing as expected, and we pulled weeds. Alot. Every week. On our hands and knees.
Our plants which were planted in the fall of 2016 outperformed everything we planted in 2017, and by July we had those towering bines we had dreamed of. It was this success I think which kept us going all summer.
August was brutally hot and dry. Our saving grace was/is the fantastic infrastructure of the Bow River Irrigation District. Our plants thrived in the sunshine with lots to drink. Our weeders suffered. In the end we hired workers to save our knees and sanity.
Labour day saw us celebrate the years end with a pig roast, home brew competition, and ramping up for harvest.
Our hops went to two breweries. Origin Malting and brewing who made a Black IPA, and Outcast Brewing who made a NEIPA. We enjoyed both beers alot. Origin hosted a launch event for us where we invited friends and family to celebrate with us, and the Outcast beer was the star of the show at the first event Alberta Hops Producers Association event.
Looking forward now to 2018, we will take our successes and failures from the past year and apply them forward. The existing hop yard should be a far different place come the middle of May. We'll cut the extra hop shoots and root them in pots for planting in the new hop yard this summer.
We've got plans for 2 additional acres of trellis through the summer with a goal of moving propagated plants to the ground by August.
A mechanized harvester, a drying oast and pelletizer are all on the books for this year.
Our goal for this blog is to share weekly updates and photos on our progress once the first plant emerges. Until then, you'll hear from us monthly.
We'd love to hear from you. Drop us a note @ firstname.lastname@example.org. Hit us on Twitter @pairodicehops. And we'll be hosting guests for tours all summer long. Just book ahead so we are here to greet you, and not on the golf course.
Aug 6, 2017
Its been a busy couple of weeks at the hop farm. We've been managing weeds on an ongoing way by mowing and getting down to the ground and pulling them. We've been experimenting with mulching the rows to keep the weeds down and the roots moist.
We've done a few sciency things too. We validated that the irrigation system is providing consistent water across the farm by collecting and measuring the water at random points through the hop yard, and have done soil moisture testing adjacent to the plants to evaluate the effectiveness of the irrigation. The result is a big thumbs up from an irrigation standpoint.
Spencer showing the soil ball in his hand from a ground sample. Not too wet and sticky, not too dry.
The hops are really taking off this week too! The burrs are all now turning into the beautiful cones we've been waiting all season for.
This week, we'll continue to monitor the progress daily and check for pests.
Harvest is coming quickly as well. We've been prparing the hop dryer, and packaging materials. As for harvest, we've decided to call a few good friends to help pick this years crop.
We have two events upcoming. Ths first is the Field to glass tour with Theoretically brewing and Origin Malting on August 26th. Tickets available from Theory Brew.
The second event is our annual Labor Day pig roast. This is an invite only event for family and friends. We've also invited the Badlands Home Brew club to attend where we'll host a home brew competition.
Both of these events will require the hop yard to be in tip top shape to show off.
We are glad to give tours to anyone. Just drop us a line in advance so we can ensure availability.
Jul 17, 2017
Another hot, dry week here at Pair O' Dice Hops.
The garden yard continues to smash our growth expectations with most of the first year plants at or near the wire. Lots of side arms and burrs visible.
The main yard is quite a bit behind. Eleven hop varities are busy establishing root systems and will sadly have very limited cone production this year.
This experience has encouraged us to expand our fall planting program where we cut and plant rhizomes in late October well after dormancy has set in and before the ground freezes.
Both existing yards continue to receive regular irrigation and daily checks for pests and disease. Weed control is ongoing. The alleys between rows are seeing weeds subside with the wet areas close to the plant bases still requiring close attention.
We are preparing and planning for harvest time in a tactical way while we lay the strategic groundwork for a quadrupling of acres next year. That would bring the total to 5 acres in 2018, with plans for an additional 5 acres in 2019! Lofty goals, but the best time to plant hops is 4 years ago, so we had better get started.
On the marketing front, we will unveil our POD T-shirts this week. They'll be available for purchase along with our stickers.
Further we have the August 26th Hop yard Field to Glass tour where you can tour the hop yard and Alberta Hops, learn about malting barley locally and see how Theoretically Brewing is bringing it all together.
We'll share another update next week.
Jul 7, 2017
We thought it would be useful to share the progress and activities going on in the hop yard each week as things progress.
Its a very exciting time right now because the plants are starting to shift from vertical growth to horizontal growth and flowering.
There are still many daily activities to tend to. Pulling weeds is a non-stop activity. And, there are many hops that are still small and require training onto the strings. One of our youngest hop farmers has successfully trained 4 buckwheat plants onto hop strings. Quite a feat for a young man.
We have an extremely warm and dry weather pattern this week, and are watering every morning in the coolest hours.
We had two exciting events this week. First we announced a Field to Glass tour of the hop yard, and we were the topic of an article in AB Farmer Express on the Booming Alberta Craft Beer industry and the spin off to the hops industry.
The upcoming week will have more watering, weed control, and marveling at the growth of the hops. We also get to pick up our new hop T-shirts from Level2 Sportsware.
Apr 4, 2017
The countdown to growing season has a number. May 1st. That's when our hop rhizomes will arrive and be ready for planting.
All of the logistics we've undertaken in the past 6 months are coming together in the next 3 weeks. Poles are going in the ground this week. Cables are going up next week. Ground prep and irrigation install the week after and finally planting! We knew it was going to be a big push to make this year happen, but you never really know how big until it hits. The optimist in us always thinks it will go faster and be less expensive than it actually is.
Growing hops in Alberta is something brand new, and we're pioneers in that sense. What will Alberta hops bring to the beer equation? The ride to discover new flavors is an exciting one. We hope you'll enjoy discovering the Alberta difference with us.
Last week, we attended the Alberta Craft Brewers Convention in Red Deer where we met fantastic brewers and suppliers. We tasted some delicious beers, and heard inspiring speakers who talked about the history of the Better Beer Movement, the rapid growth of Alberta Beer, and the uncertain growth trajectory.
We had the opportunity to introduce the Alberta Hop Producers Association (albertahops.com) and tell out story.
Your questions were interesting. Many of the questions we don't yet have answers to, but as new growers bring production online we'll figure those out together. Will you sell to market individually, or collectively? Will you process your hops or sell whole only? Will there be Alberta straines of hops?
We're hgeading out to the field now. Sweaty, dirty, hard work is the menu for the next month. We'll share some updates as we move along. Cheers!