Madship Brewing

Growing Cascade hops in South Africa


I imported a few Cascade hop rhizomes, and tried growing them in this rather unsuitable climate.  We have hot summer days 27°C - 35°C maximum, 15-20°C minimum, and frost (-5°C to 5°C minimum) in winter.  The summer days are short (about 14 hours of light) because we are at a low latitude (26° south).  The tropic of Capricorn is only 200 km away.  I understand that hops plants need a latitude of 35° - 55° to flower successfully in natural light.

After decimating my plants after the first season (by trying incorrectly to propagate them), I had only one plant that survived.  It was recovering for the whole of the 2005-2006 season, and eventually grew well in the 2006-2007 season.  I built a 6m trellis for it, and it quickly reached that height.  I put up a floodlight with two 20W energy-saver globes.  When I got no flowers by the summer solstice in December, I put up a 150W mercury lamp, and THIS seemed to do the trick - I got flowers for the first time this (2007) season.  The lamp remains on for the whole night.

My 2007 harvest

Proud harvester
I cut down the hop plant on 2 June 2007, and picked off the hop flowers one-by-one.  Some had already browned, but most were still green.  I suspect that I need to put my light on a timer, and progressively increase and decrease "daylight" time so that the plant does not get so confused.  It shot a new shoot in April.  Maybe it still has memory of Northern hemisphere timing?

We had our first frost 2 weeks before this harvest; I figured the hops had to be ready by now.  The green cones were springy, and returned to their original shape after being pressed.  I understand that this is an indication that they are ready.  My only concern is the lack of characteristic Cascade character.  I guess I'l have to brew with the dried hops to really evaluate their character.  I suppose it is to be expected that the climate makes a big difference to the character of a hop.  An example is the difference between Kent Goldings and Styrian Goldings, which are apparently identical plants.


This pic shows a close-up of one of the hop flowers.  There seems to be a fair amount of lupulin available.

Discerning the hop character

I made a light beer, 1.040 OG, 25 IBU, and added 2g/litre of my dried hops at 15 minutes before the end of boil.  I chose this recipe to try to judge the aroma character of the hops.  My wife described it beautifully: burnt sugar!   It was definitely a characteristic of the hop, and not the brewing process: when I crush a hop flower between my fingers, I get the same aroma, with a touch of citrusy Cascade character that I was hoping for. I am disappointed that I don't get more Cascade character, but quite pleased that the hop has this unique aroma.

I am hoping that next season the hops will be stronger, and therefore start showing that Cascade character. I will put my light on a timer, in order to artificially increase the daylight hours until the solstice, and thereafter decrease the daylight hours.

After harvesting, I cut the bines off near the ground. There have been some new shoots showing, so I have been covering the mound daily with ice, and a few layers of artificial insulation cover, to stop the ice from melting during the day. Hopefully, this will bring on the dormancy that is necessary for the plant to prepare for the next season.