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Here’s How to Grow Hops in Chicago

Get the ultimate in local beer: grow the hops yourself.

Hop plants at the Shedd Aquarium   Photo: Jeff Marini

The ultimate local brew is made from homegrown hops. You can sample three of the options on tap now, or for those who want to grow their own, Revolution Brewing’s head brewer Wil Turner shares his tips.

1 Be patient.

Most hop plants intended for home growers are sold in rhizome—or underground stem—form. Lincoln Square’s Brew Camp and Avondale’s Brew & Grow sell multiple varieties by special order. In the first season, each rhizome can produce a plant that can reach 25 feet in height and yield up to two pounds of hops—though some may need a second year to get going.

2 Scale up.

In early spring, in a deep bed in full sun, plant the rhizome at the base of a fence or trellis so the vine will have something to latch on to (you may need to wrap the plant around the base at first). Water daily.

3 Feel them out.

By late August or early September, the flowering cones of the hops should be fragrant and almost ready. Turner says they should be just starting to dry out when you pick them: “You want to open one up every few days, feel it. You don’t want them to be overly dry, but if they’re still really wet, they’re not quite there.”

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