Garden Mastery: Tiny green hop cones thrive in beer

Garden Mastery: Tiny green hop cones thrive in beer

Have you ever wondered how beer is made and what ingredients are used in this refreshing drink? One of the essential ingredients is hops – a cone-shaped plant flower (Humulus lupus) in the gardening family Hemp.

It is an incredibly beautiful flower, rich in oils, acids and resins. The art of brewing fine aromatic beer is due in large part to the many different hop varieties, which impart a range of flavors including citrus, floral, grassy, ​​spicy, woody and even earthy.

Hops are a fast-growing, herbaceous perennial native to temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere. Only female plants produce cones for use as hops (male plants are pollinators). Hops grow from rhizomes also called root stems. Plants need direct sunlight and 15 or more hours of daylight to successfully produce cones. They thrive with adequate water in the spring and warm temperatures in the summer. In San Diego County, hops will likely require additional watering.

Hops plants like deep, well-drained, sandy loam soil with a pH of 6 to 7.0. Plant nutrition consists of fertilizers applied in the spring as well as manure or manure.

Powdery mildew, wilt and viral diseases affect hops. Spider mites and aphids are less aggressive pests. Unfortunately, the plants do not tolerate herbicides or pesticides. Commercial growers have been successful in managing these diseases.

Brewing beer with hops ceased in the United States during the Prohibition Era, which began in 1920 and lasted until 1933. With the lifting of the federal tax on home-brewed beer in the 1970s, there was a resurgence of home brewing across the country.

Globally, the United States is leading the trend in creating new hop varieties. We tend to produce and enjoy beer’s citrus, fruity and floral aromas.

Close-up of ripe hops.

(Barb Sands)

Interestingly, there are many varieties of hops, however these nine varieties from the United States are the most popular: Chinook, Amarillo, Centennial, Cascade, Mosaic, Citra, Magnum, Simcoe, and Columbus. Cascade imparts a grapefruit-like flavor and aroma, while Centennial is more bitter, less floral, and adds a citrus aroma to the beer. Columbus is used for its bitter flavour, which is frequently used later in the beer making process to provide a citrus and even woody flavour. Each type of hop imparts varying proportions of alpha acids, creating a unique taste.

Europeans are also creating new varieties, and the most popular currently among beer drinkers are Mandarina Bavaria (citrus aroma), Halertau Blanc (like a fine white wine) and Polaris (think icy dessert!).

So, back to our initial question: How do you make beer? It’s very simple. There are four basic ingredients: malted barley, hops, water, and yeast. malted barley (Common barley) are the grains needed for yeast to ferment and add life to beer. Hop flowers provide flavour, bitterness and aroma to beer and are generally added in three distinct stages: bitterness, aroma and flavour. Not surprisingly, the mineral content found in water from around the world gives beer its distinctive flavour.

You can try growing hops in San Diego County for personal consumption; However, it will take time, patience and the right growing conditions. It is also possible to grow hops in a container if There is ample room for the roots to spread. This is the biggest problem a brewer/farmer will face, as the roots can grow to a depth of 15 feet or more.

You’ll need a very long trellis—up to 16 feet—and coir (coconut fiber) to provide sturdy vertical support for your hop plants. The plants will also need very large amounts of water (think drip irrigation) and the soil will need fertilizers such as nitrogen (large amounts), potassium and phosphate. A mixture of sandy loam, sandy loam, silt and silty sand is preferred. Commercial fertilizers and compost are available to home growers.

Varieties known for their high yields and versatility — such as Cascade, Columbus, Chinook and Crystal — are good choices for San Diego County. The hops will begin to ripen around August. The first year of growth is dedicated to establishing root growth. In the second year, you can expect to see a normal crop depending on your weather conditions.

Those interested in brewing beer may want to contact the USA Hop Growers of America, the San Diego Hop Growers Association, and the Brewers Association. Additionally, check out the University of California Cooperative Extension page at Or visit many of the 150 local breweries throughout San Diego County. The next USA Hops Farmer and Farmer Support Conference will be held in Coronado January 21-25, 2025.


Sands has been one of UCCE’s Master Gardeners since 2014. You can follow her as she walks through hop farms in Germany, talks with passionate beer growers here in San Diego or tastes new beer varieties west of the Rockies.

Get free home gardening tips at UCCE Master Gardeners of San Diego County Hotline, (858) 822-6910, or by email at

You may also like...

Leave a Reply