Grow a Beer Garden and Sow Your Own Suds!
Hops gardens produce the perfect addition to a cold glass of beer.
At the Purple Parrot Café in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, French coffee presses share space behind the bar with bottles of wine and liquor. But instead of using them to brew a rich cup of joe, beverage director Dusty Frierson uses them to infuse beer with extra hops he grows behind the restaurant.
Frierson used to order hops from various companies on the West Coast. But when the courtyard space was redesigned, he decided a hops garden would make a perfect addition to the area. "We wanted something that would make it a unique beer-centric space and a relaxed atmosphere to imbibe in," he says. "Hops are naturally soothing aromatics and we can use them in our hop French press."
Frierson planted Centennial, Chinook, Willamette and Citra hops varieties, which he chose for their "higher alpha acid percentage that boosts the hop aroma in the beer," he says. "With hops you plant rhizomes, which is the same rootstock method used in planting vineyards."
With the rhizomes freshly planted, Frierson hopes to have a small crop this year and a more substantial showing next year. "The good thing about hops is that they are very fast-growing vines," he says." They can grow up to 20 inches per week."
According to Frierson, the hops are ready to be picked when they have a dry, springy touch and are full of yellow lupulin, which is the flavor component. He'll dry the hops for two days, laying them out over a large screen near a blower. "This stage is important because 'wet' hops will mold quickly," he says. Once they're dry, the hops will be vacuum sealed into 1-ounce portions and stored in a cool, dark cabinet.
The only difference between French press coffee and French press beer is the temperature. "We don't heat the beer," Frierson says. "We just let the hops steep."
Do extra hops really make for a better glass of beer? Frierson says so. "You can really taste the effects in the higher alpha hops like Chinook," he says. "It creates a great aroma and nice bitterness in the taste."
French Press Beer
- 1 pint of beer
- 1 ounce of hops
- 1 French press coffee maker
Pour the beer into the French press and mix in the hops. Let it steep for five minutes then push down the plunger and pour.