The Cooperstown Brewing Company makes a "Backyard IPA" that uses a quantity of locally grown hops in their mix of finishing hops. In addition to being a tasty beverage, it started me thinking about the possibility of growing my own hops.
As a homebrewer, I buy most of my hops online (I don't have a full-fledged homebrewing shop where I live). This had been working well until about the last year or so, when the hop shortage made product hard to find and more expensive. The outlook for this year seems better, but even so, growing my own hops still has a lot of appeal.
In 1850, New York was producing over three million pounds of hops a year. I don't need quite that much, but at least I know my efforts may be successful. This article by Richard Vang is a good read on the history of New York hop farming, though it's a bit old.
My first challenge will be acquiring hop rhizomes (like roots) so I can plant them. I've heard of people having wild hops growing in their backyards, but I'm pretty sure I don't have any in mine. Wild hops may also have wild flavors, which intrigues me, but if I'm going to put the time into growing them...
I will probably end up buying rhizomes online. There are a few sources out there, but I may go with MoreBeer, as I've bought from them before. Their rhizome product page states that they will be taking reservations in February. So apparently, if like me you're interested in growing your own hops this summer, this is the time to make your move.
Once I have my rhizomes, the next challenge will be keeping them alive. Luckily for me, a search on Google brings up a wealth of tips and strategies for growing hops. If you know of a great resource to get hop rhizomes, please share in the comments!