I was out shopping for heirloom tomato plants at a local nursery last weekend when I made an interesting discovery. Amongst a selection of rare ornamental plants and hard to find heirloom vegetable plants I came across four pots filled with what looked oddly similar to a young hop bine. Not a spelling mistake, the long and fast growing shoots of the hop plant are bines, not vines. It turns out the four potted plants not only looked like young hop plants, but in fact were young hop plants. One of the owners of this greenhouse quickly took notice of my wide-eyed appearance and obvious interest in this plant and approached me.
I asked the owner if he knew what variety of hops I was about to purchase. He was unsure of the exact variety, but assured me that the plant I was about to purchase would produce hop cones suitable for brewing. After talking for a few minutes, I learned that this man’s father was born in the UK and was raised in a hop growing region of the country. As a young adult this man’s father moved to Chilliwack, BC where he found himself surrounded by the familiar aroma of the hop yard. Upon the closing of BC’s last hop yard, this man’s father walked through the remnants of this dead industry and pulled up one of the few remaining rhizomes left in the field. He gave this rhizome to his son, an owner of this small greenhouse operation, who planted the last remaining rhizome in his back field. This hop plant is still growing strong year after year – the aromatic hops cones are occasionally harvested, not used as a brewing ingredient but instead serve as pleasant reminder to this man’s father of his childhood in England.
The plant I purchased, believed to be a descendant of BC’s booming hops industry, is happily planted in the ground where it will rapidly grow at a speed of up to 50 cm a week. I am not expecting much as far as hop cone production goes, but in future years look forward to brewing with what could be one of BC’s last remaining hop plants from our long dead, but potentially revived, hops industry.