21 February 2020

Installing a hop garden collection

In recent years, many micro-breweries have emerged in our region. This renewed, growing interest in local hops is partly explained by the desire for 100% Walloon production.

Installing a hop garden collection

The CRA-W virology laboratory have been gathering varieties of aromatic and/or bitter hops since the 1980s.  At that time the objective was to offer producers a greater diversity of hop varieties, enabling them to cope with the high susceptibility to verticillium wilt in the cultivars found in Belgium. A process of rapid multiplication by micro-propagation was thus developed. This made it possible to supply quality plants to producers in the Poperinge region, the main hop growing area in Belgium. Demand decreased between 2000 and 2010... but in recent years, we have been approached by individuals and amateur brewers wishing to obtain hop plants.

In response to this revival of interest, the CRA-W collection expanded in 2019 and now includes some 75 cultivars of traditional varieties and some of Belgian origin.

In order to demonstrate the potential of these diverse varieties, it was decided to install a mini hop garden on the site of the CRA-W's Marchal building, using 2 plants per cultivar. This was achieved with the technical help of a student from Ciney (Julien Hubert) and the Marchal building technical team. Two lines of coniferous wood poles measuring 7-8 m were erected and driven a metre into the ground. All metal hardware (wires, stretchers, etc.) needed to maintain the structure and allow the hops to be hung will be installed in the spring. Planting will take place in May-June, in the hope that some cones will even be ready for harvest this year; we will still have to wait 3 years before these hop plants perform at their best.

A few plants have already been installed on display near the entrance to the Marchal Building.

Amateur brewers take note...