Indian Ladder Farmstead Cidery and Brewery is unique in that we grow the ingredients we use to make beer and hard cider right here on the farm. The people working in the tasting room who fill your flights are the same people who tend the hops and harvest the malting barley and sitting at the bar you will likely share drink and conversation with the same guys who grow the apples.
Once the weather warms up the hops start growing like crazy, spreading all over the ground and climbing anything within reach. One of the first orders of business is dropping the strings from the top of the trellis and anchoring them to the ground. The strings enable the bines to climb. The hops should reach their full height of 18 feet by the summer solstice when they will begin to send out side shoots on which the hop flowers we use to make beer will form.
The string we use to enable the hops to climb is called “coir” and it is made of coconut fiber. It is strong and its coarse surface gives the hop bines’ prickly trichomes plenty to grasp onto. The coir is tied to the trellis’s steel cable using a knot called a “clove hitch.” The bottom end of the coir is then anchored to the ground with what’s called a “w clip”--a piece of metal that is fact shaped like the letter W.
Once the trellis is strung it is time to train the hop bines to grow up the coir and this has been our focus over the past two weeks. It is very labor intensive. Unlike the big hop yards out west we avoid the use of herbicides in our hop yard so the process of training the bines is made more difficult because the hop bines have entwined themselves in the surrounding weeds.
The photo below shows our crew pulling up weeds along with a proliferation of unwanted hop shoots by hand and carefully training the strongest bines to grow up the coir.
It is a tedious task but when I snuck out there to take a few pictures Saturday morning I found them productive and cheerful, discussing the Presidential primaries and the matter of the super delegates while listening to reggae. –Laurie Ten Eyck