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Updating NM hop (and bird) crops

Hops eggs become birds

As you can see the nest with eggs built in organic hop plants in Northern New Mexico has turned into a nest with birds. In sending the photo, Todd Bates writes they are “thriving at the expense of a not so good plant – not a bad deal.”

The harvest is headed toward completion and they’ll be sending several varieties off to be tested. Last year the variety they are calling Rio came with a modest 3.2% alpha acids (meaning they don’t pack the punch of a brute such as Columbus at 14%-17%).

The photos below are from a few weeks ago to give you an idea of the setting – and the fact that the hops are one element in a big organic garden.

The trellis system is built on 12-foot junipers salvaged from a fire. Most of these are dwarf hop plants, which have some advantage for commercial producers. Summit is a newish, but becoming well known, sample of a dwarf hop.

Hops eggs become birds

Hops eggs become birds

Hops, eggs, Goose Island, and organic

Bird's nest in hops

Sierra and I made a home school field trip yesterday to check out a small operation a few hours to the north, virtually on the banks of the Rio Grande, where a couple of guys are growing all manner of organic foods at 5,800 feet.

Included are many varieties of hops, most of them apparently native to New Mexico. That’s a story I’ll be digging into, but that’s another day.

This was a fascinating lesson in biodiversity. For instance, all kinds of flycatchers and birds use the hopyard trellis (built with wood reclaimed from a mountain fire) as a hunting platform for insects.

Thus the picture at the top. Birds have built a nest in some of the thicker hop bines (in this case Cascades). It made me think of a recipe Goose Island brewmaster Greg Hall provided more than 10 years ago when we were compiling the Brewpub Cookbook for Time Life Books.

Hall suggests burying the eggs used in the recipe in a container of Cascade hops for three to dive days. Because eggs are porous, he said, they will breathe the piney aromas and it will perfume the eggs.

Let’s hope the eggs in this picture hatch. Then maybe some day a resident of the Embudo area will have a bird fly close and think: “I’m not sure why, but I seem to crave a hoppy pale ale.”

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