A Good Beer Blog

Hop Cultivation in 1878.

By Emery Gilbert Bissell, Ph. G.

Hop culture in the United States was commenced in Virginia about 250 years ago, in 1857 the industry was encouraged by legislative enactments. The culture of the crop in that State was not a success, the quality produced being far inferior to that of the old world. After the failure to produce a good quality in Virginia little attention was paid to the growing of hops in this country until within the last seventy-five years, and the most we can learn from census reports is that they have been grown, more or less, in nearly every State and Territory in the Union—Florida, Dakota, and New Mexico being the only exceptions. It is within the past thirty-five years that hops have assumed their present commercial and agricultural importance in the United States, and during that time the culture has increased at a surprising rate, while in England and Germany the increase has been very slight during the past seventy-five years. Some idea may be formed of the growth and importance of this interest in the United States from the following statistics, taken from the census reports, which, allowing 200 pounds to the bale, show that there were produced in this country in 1840, 6,196 bales; 1850, 17,485 bales; 1860, 54,960 bales; 1870, 127,283 bales.

Thus far New York has led all other States in this branch of agriculture ; probably at least four-fifths of all the hops ever grown in this country have been produced in New York. In certain sections of the State the crop is the chief one of tbe farmer, and thesale of it the leading business of the community. In the year 1860 the counties of Oneida. Madison, Otsego and Schoharie are said to have produced more hops than were grown in the United States outside of New York. In 1875 the two counties Oneida and Madison produced something over 40,000 bales, probably about one-third the entire crop of the country. The export from the port of New York, year ending August 31, were, in 1809, 69,463 bales ; 1870, 56,543 bales 1871, 24,577 bales; 1872, 6,095 bales; 1873, 9,315 bales; 1874, 1,(138 bales; 1875, 15,995 bales; 1876, 46,116 bales. The imports to the port of New York, vear ending Aug. 31st, were, in 1869, none; 1870, none; 1871, none. 1872, 5,800 bales; 1873, 20,885 bales; 1874, 13,444 bales ; 1875, none; 1876, none.

The American hop is of fine quality, indeed it is claimed that, when our hops are properly picked and dried, no country produces a finer article. The quality of hops can be readily determined by their general appearance, odor and imount of lupulin contained in them, the best being free Tom mat or mould, the bracts of a bright yellowish-green :olor, and showing none of the dark spots produced by the iop-lcaf louse (Apis humuli). The odor of hops is peculiar, >owerful and penetrating, yet to most people agreeable it is lue to a volatile oil. In judging of hops little or no attention is paid to their taste. Climate appears to have as nueh influence on the hop as soil. A hot, scorching sun is infavoiable, because it causes the strobiles to dry before naturity It has been observed that favorable weather for ;orn is no. the best for hops ; thus in the fall of 1875 the :orn crop of central New York was much smaller than isual, while the yield of hops was usually large. Damp, nuggy weather is very unfavorable, causing the strobiles 0 mould, particularly if they have been damaged by the lop leaf louse. Temperate weather and a clear atmos>here are the climatic requisites for a successful cultivation if th'e crop.

Two varieties of the hop are principally grown in New TDrk, being known as the large and small cluster. No paricular difference is to be seen in these two varieties, exceptng the one is larger than the other, and no difference is ;nown in quality. Besides these two varieties, a third, ;nown as the Palmer Seedling, is now coming into quite xtensive cultivation. This variety was first obtained from he seed, by the late Charles Palmer, of Waterville, N Y. ome twelve or fourteen years ago, and now under successul cultivation in New York, some of the Western States and n Canada. This variety does not yield quite as well as the ther kinds; no difference, however, is to be noticed in the ine, and the hop itself is of large size and fine quality, hardr to be distinguished from the large cluster. The pecularity of this hop is that it matures some three or four weeks n advance of the ordinary kinds, thus enabling the grower f them to get his crop into market before the ordinary kinds .re fit to pick. Hops are cultivated, picked, dried and baled in New York .fter much the same manner as described by Mr. Wm. H. iamsey in his very interesting paper entitled "Hop Culure in Wisconsin, and published in the "American Jourinl of Pharmacy," 1875, page 241.

In starting new yards the hills are usually placed seven eet apart one way by eight the other. Some growers, howver, place the hills only six feet apart in each direction. As he hop plant does not yield the first year, corn or potatoes re planted among the young vines ; the latter crop is the
When the vine has grown two or three feet in length, usu.lly about the middle of May, tying is commenced. This pork is largely done by women and girls, who at this time ;o through the yard, and, with strings or rushes cut for the impose, tie usually two vines to each pole ; the remaining rines, of which a dozen or more often spring from a hill, are ifter a time removed, thus throwing the whole vitality of he plant into the two vines which ascend the pole. The argest of the young vines are among those removed, as they nn more to vine and are not as productive as those of a nedium size. The tying has to be kept up from time to ime, until the vine is well up the pole.

The stringing of hops is of late coming much into vogue. »Vhen hops are to be trained in this way they are set out the ;ame as though they were to be poled. To the first row of lills arc placed stakes four or five feet in length, pieces of >rokcn poles being generally used for the purpose; to the next ■ow are placed long poles alternately with stakes; to the hird row are placed stakes, as in the first; to the fourth row takes and poles, as in the second; and so on through the rard. From each stake are run two strings, nearly to the op of the neighboring poles ; two vines are usually run on isch string, and two on the poles. This kind of training is ailed tent fashion, from the resemblance of the yard to a eries of tents, and is the usual way of training the vine on tring*. Other ways have been tried, but this method has lus far proven the most successful. The chief advantage f this method of growing hops is that it is much the cheapit wa-y, only one pole having to be provided where sixteen re ussed if the hops are poled in the ordinary way. The ind «f twine used with the best satisfaction is coarse 001 twine ; this costs about eleven or twelve cents per ouncL, and it takes from fifty to sixty pounds to the acre; ae stakes used are worth two to four cents each. When tops are poled in the usual way it takes about 1,500 poles 0 the acre ; these cost from about twelve to fourteen cents acb. Another advantage claimed in stringing hops is that hey are not as liable to be damaged by winds ; the strings iving more than poles before the storm, prevents the hops rom Deing whipped together. The vines, however, do not limb strings quite as readily as poles, and consequently it 1 more work to keep them tied. Another disadvantage is hat they are not quite so conveniently picked as from the oles, and it may be also mentioned that the idea prevails mong some growers that the vine trained on strings is not uite as productive.

After hops have got a fair start in the spring the growth f the vine is generally very rapid ; a number of vines matched by the writer grew, on a average, more than six aches a day in succession, and in favorable weather excepional vines have been known to grow ten or more inches in wenty-four hours. But the hop is about the most uncerain crop ; the prospects of a yard may be wholly destroyed a a single hour by hail, which proves destructive to the ine ; heavy winds at times lay the poles level with the ground ; then may come lice or bligbt, either of which is iable to destroy the crop in a few days' time ; only after licking is well advanced is there a certainty as to what the rop will be. The hop-leaf louse (Apis humuli) is the great dread of the iop grower; more hops are probably destroyed by this insect han by all other causes combined ; indeed growing yards re now scarcely to be found where the insect does not lourish in considerable numbers. The hops are sometimes [estroyed in the burr by this insect, but most generally they nter the strobile after it is formed and nearly ripe, and detroy the hop by piercing the bracts, thus allowing the juice o exude, which together with excretion of the insect causes lie bop to mould, and unless they are very soon picked nd dried the inside turns nearly black ; the hop then ac[iiires a disagreeable odor, and is rendered entirely worth BSS.

Blight, or rust, is a disease whieh attacks the vine generally while the hop is in the burr, and gives it the appearance of having been Bcorched by fire; the hops on such vines do not fully develop. Hop picking is usually commenced about Sept. 1st; many of the pickers are brought from neighboring cities, and boarded by the growers who employ them until the hops are gathered, some of the larger growers having at this season a hundred or a hundred and fifty hop pickers to provide for. The crop is necessarily gathered before entirely ripe, because if left to fully mature on the poles great loss occurs from their being then easily shaken from the vine or whipped to pieces by winds; many growers, however, greatly damage their crop by picking when too green ; when this is done, the hop, of course does not contain it? full amount of lupulin, which is the valuable portion ; moreover, the roots are much damaged by a too early cutting away of the vine; indeed, it appears the vine is usually cut away too soon for the good of the root; as in cases where the crop has been so damaged as not to be picked, the vine not being cut away until completely dead, the yield the following year has been found unusually large.

Hop picking generally lasts from two to three weeks. The boxes, as fast as they are filled by the pickers, are emptied into sacks ; they are then taken and placed in kilns, where they are dried by artificial heat. After drying the hops are pressed, by lever hand presses, into bales of about two hundred pounds each ; they are also pressed into small packages of from i to 1 pound. This is a convenient form for the druggist ; but, as far as the observation of the writer goes, most all of the hops put up in this form are of very inferior quality, and many of them entirely worthless; in fact, this method seems to be taken for disposing of utterly worthless hops, which could not be sold, at any price, in any other form. The actual cost of raising hops is, on an average, about ten cents per pound. Their price is as variable as the crop is uncertain, having ranged within the past few years from the actual cost of production to fifty and even sixty cents per pound ; most years the crop brings a price which is remunerative to the grower, and, in fact, the culture of hops, if carried on for a succession of years, is said to pay better than most any other kind of farming.