Back in August a friend of mine, and fellow Bay Area Beer Blogger, Matt Amaral, invited a small group over to his parent’s farm in Hayward, CA. If you’re not familiar with Hayward, it’s a huge suburban enclave caught between Oakland and San Jose. The city’s rich agrarian history is long gone. So I was pretty surprised to find an old chicken farm with a huge garden tucked against some railroad tracks at the end of a sleepy street. Amaral convinced his father to plant a row of five different hop plants two years ago and he needed help with the harvest.
I’ve handled hops here and there, but I’ve never sized them up on a tall vine. An afternoon of picking hops, supplemented with beer, was an opportunity I couldn’t resist. I threw on some shorts, eager to escape San Francisco’s fog, grabbed my camera and bought a six-pack of Brew Free or Die IPA by 21st Amendment Brewery.
Here are a few things I learned:
1. Prolonged hop picking yields a sticky and filthy hop hand.
2. Don’t ever wear shorts to pick hops in a pile of vines. My legs (and arms) were sliced and diced by fine barbs on the hop vine.
3. Picking hops by hand can be demoralizing. You can pick the same spot for 20 minutes and feel like your not making any progress. There were so many hops!
We didn’t even come close to clearing the five vines, but it was good fun. Homebrewers took home a stash of fresh hops, while I brought home some photos.