Tonawanda gardener shares the basics of growing hops

by Connie Oswald Stofko

hop vines or bines growing in Tonawanda NY
The hops bines climb up to the second story of the Tonawanda home of Matt and Tashia Tribo. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko

You may be a gardener who knows a lot about plants or a connoisseur who knows a lot about craft beers, but what do you know about hops?

I learned a lot when I visited the gardens of Matt and Tashia Tribo on the Ken-Ton Garden Tour in July.

Hops plants are easy to maintain; you don’t have to water them at all, Matt said. You do have to trim them back at the bottom so they don’t spread out.

“You want to focus the energy of the bines to grow straight up,” he said.

Yes, hops have bines, which are a little different from vines. Bines have short thorns to help the plant grasp a support.

When he was harvesting, “my arms got scraped and I broke out in a rash,” he said.

Every five or six years you cut the hops plant down to the ground. The plant starts growing in March and grows a couple of inches a day to get all the way up to the second-story of the house.

Matt has his bines on a pulley system that he can lower when it’s time to harvest.

hops in flower in Tonawanda NY
The hops flowers (also called cones) will be harvested at the end of August. This is what they looked like in July. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko

“I like how they look,” he said, admiring the bines. “I think it classes up the joint.”

Does Tashia agree? “I guess so,” she said with a laugh. “It makes the yard interesting.”

Another interesting thing about hops is that it is a host plant for caterpillars of at least two butterflies: the eastern comma or Polygonia comma and hops azure or Celastrina humulus.

For many years, Matt and a friend made beer using a kit that came with all the ingredients, including hops. Last year was the first time he substituted his own hops flowers, also called cones.

The hops cones contain a yellow powder called lupulin, which gives beer its flavor and helps preserve it, he said.

You need only one ounce of hops cones for a five-gallon batch of beer, he said. With a pound of dried cones, he could make 16 five-gallon batches or 32 cases of beer. He still has frozen hops from last year.

The hops are harvested at the end of August, and each cone is cut off individually.

dried hops flowers or cones
This is one ounce of dried hops flowers or cones from last year. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko

The cones are then spread on a door screen in the basement with a box fan blowing on them to dry.

To store the cones, he measures out one ounce amounts and puts each ounce into a separate plastic bag. Then he places the bags in the freezer until he’s ready to use the hops.

5 Comments on “Tonawanda gardener shares the basics of growing hops

  1. There used to be a hops trellis growing system out 104 towards Lockport, but appears to be unproductive now. With all the local breweries, I wonder what happened?
    NYS used to be one of the #1 growers of hops in the country…probably pre-prohibition.

  2. I garden (veggies & flowers) but knew nothing about hops. Thanks for a short, interesting and informative article!

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