Since the Garden Club has been selling rhizomes for the past month, and will soon be selling hop starts, here's the rundown on which of our hops grows best in Central Oregon.
To clarify, all commercial hops belong to the species Humulus lupulus. So the hop we know as, say, Nugget, is simply a cultivar of that species, i.e. Humulus lupulus 'Nugget.' We have 22 cultivars, or varieties, on our hop trellis, of which four are experimental genotypes bred at Oregon State University and one (Meridian) is proprietary. These are not available for purchase, but the other 17 varieties are. So the question you may face now is, Which one should I grow?
Worthy built the hop yard not only for display but also for testing some common commercial varieties against the Central Oregon climate. With our short growing season, chilly night temps, and dry air, we figured there were bound to be differences in hop performance versus the milder, wetter Willamette Valley. On the plus side, we have far less instances of fungal and bacterial diseases thanks to low humidity and lots of sunshine. And although we thought we'd be challenged with the short growing season, that hasn't proven to be a significant problem at all. Most research states that hop plants need at least 120 frost-free days to reach maturity. Central Oregon has anywhere between 90 and 120 days. Our hops get hit with quite a few frosts after they start growing in March, but that doesn't seem to slow them down. Worthy, as well as surrounding hop farms, get a successful harvest every year. So when looking for the best variety to grow, there's almost no wrong choice.
But certain hops will work better for your growing purpose. The standouts in vigor are Centennial, Chinook, Crystal, Horizon, Mt. Hood, and Perle. These showed the most lush and aggressive growth and would work best for decorative purposes like climbing an arbor or creating a screen. And although not a leader in vertical growth, I really love Keyworth's Early for its beautiful, deeply-lobed leaves. As for cone production, Santiam came out on top with 2.0 oz (dry weight from two plants). Horizon was next with 1.85 oz; then Chinook at 1.62 oz; and Crystal, Newport, and Nugget at 1.45 oz. (See chart below for complete harvest statistics.) These seem to be the best for any sort of production - aesthetic, home brewing, or commercial sale. So far this year, some of the most popular sellers among home brewers have been Centennial, Crystal, Liberty, and Mt. Hood.
Lisa Sanco, WGC Horticulturist & Program Manager
Grant Tandy, WGC Astronomer/ Sky-guy