Building a Hops Trellis for a Beer Garden

Bill Devlin
Adams County Master Gardener

(9/30) About a year ago, I answered a call for a Master Gardener volunteer to build a Hops Trellis for a Beer Garden. I then researched Hops and found them, according to Wikipedia, to be:

Hops are the flowers (also called seed cones or strobiles) of the hop plant Humulus lupulus.[1] They are used primarily as a flavoring and stability agent in beer, to which they impart bitter, zesty, or citric flavours; though they are also used for various purposes in other beverages and herbal medicine. The hop plant is a vigorous, climbing, herbaceous perennial, usually trained to grow up strings in a field called a hop field, hop garden (nomenclature in the South of England), or hop yard (in the West Country and U.S.) when grown commercially. Many different varieties of hops are grown by farmers around the world, with different types being used for particular styles of beer.

As I started this project noting their perennial nature I was thinking a permanent trellis. However, I soon found that due to the frequent rotation of our Ag Center Trial Gardens, the project was to build a temporary trellis. Thus higher cost and a 12’ edifice was discarded in favor of an 8’ trellis at minimum cost. I will address both options in this article however, in case one wishes to have a permanent trellis in the future.

I mention 12’ because actual hop yards lean towards taller plants. As perennials they come up every year and need a support to grow on for ease in harvesting the actual seed cones. In our case I used binder twine. In a permanent structure I would have used galvanized wire.

An internet reference showing other concepts for commercial hops structures is as follows:

This site also states that hops can grow 12 inches a day or 30 feet a year. Fortunately, this has not been our experience at the Ag Center Trial Garden.

Getting to the actual structure pictured in this article, the tools used were a circular saw with saw guide, a portable drill with Torx© head bit, one-eighth inch drill bit, tape measure and marking pen. I am partial to Torx head as being least likely to strip or release when driving the self-taping screws that I am partial to. However, for thin pieces of wood I still pilot the holes with the one-eighth inch bit. I have included a sketch of the temporary structure. Cost was under $30, three pieces of 8’ pressure treated nominal 6" deck boards, for $18.51 and the rest for screws and binder twine.

Construction went as follows, for two of the 3 deck boards, using the circular saw, with the saw guide set at 2" I cut the four vertical boards. This left from each board two 2" pieces and a thin piece 1 Ό’ wide. For the purist, the 6" deck boards are actually exactly 1" thick and 5 ½’ wide. Take away two 2" pieces and two 1/8’ cut widths and you get two 1 Ό" boards, 8 feet long. Now the remaining 8’ board is ripped twice with the circular saw guide set at 1 Ύ" giving 3 more thin 8’ boards.

Obviously the first four 2" boards are the vertical legs of the trellis, and the remaining 8" long thinner pieces form the horizontal and angular braces.

The sketch and picture show the resulting trellis.

Now for a permanent structure, what improvements would I recommend?

First, when buying the now 12’ long boards I would buy six instead of three. This would allow stiffening of the vertical legs. First per the sketch I would then rip two of them in half (saw guide set at 2 5/8"). Secondly, I would rip two with saw guide set at 2", giving us 4 stiffeners to fasten perpendicular to the 2 5/8" lets, thus stiffening them considerably to offset the longer leg lengths, 12’ vs 8’. Also this leaves us with two 12’ thin boards for horizontal pieces. Now we have two more to rip into thirds lengthwise plus the two 12’ thin boards. With the extra thin boards, I would add horizontal braces just above the ground making the final trellis more perfectly rectangular when it comes to placing the stakes.

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