Hops Tower Mk. II

Ian Boswell, Sat 10 September 2016, Brewing

This is based off of a historical design that I found in an old photograph.

Hops Construction Photograph

That is a lie, actually. But my friends Jimmy and Erin (who helped me put this tower up) felt like striking a classic pose, so I decided it might as well look a little pre-Prohibition!

As I mentioned in my Hops Tower, Mk. I post, the Mk. I towers began to collapse in earnest this spring and summer in my parents' windy backyard. So, after shuttling from my place to theirs several times to do repairs, I decided enough was enough and came up with a design that should last quite a while, I hope!

New and Old Hops Towers

Initially, I had wanted to build basically a sturdy clothesline---bury two 10' posts in the ground and run cord between them, like professional hops growers do. However, this had two disadvantages. I was hesitant to pour concrete into a yard that wasn't mine, and my parents' yard is mostly clay and rocks: digging the necessary 3' holes quickly proved to be more painful than desired. So, what to do?

After tearing my hair out a bit, I cleared my head and did a little reasoning. The issue with the previous hops tower design wasn't the structure (a tripod), it was the material. The bamboo was snapping with the weight of the hops. So, the most important thing was to upgrade the material, not to change the fundamental design. From there I looked at cost. 3/4" conduit seemed the best option as it was sturdy, lightweight, and cheap. I did want to be able to easily put up and take down the towers, either for maintenance or between seasons, so I decided that the base should be 2' lengths of 1" PVC buried in the ground. With a little duct tape wrapped around the bottom, the conduit slides into the PVC quite snugly.

Tower Base

Those rocks (and many, many more) all came from the holes I needed to dig for this operation. Brutal but satisfying work! It didn't help that I started digging during a long drought, when the already-clayish soil was hardened to a very frustrating level. After some heavy rains, the soil became much more malleable.

At the top, instead of using ordinary twine like before, I picked up a 6' length of cheap but strong cord, just to be totally sure that it wouldn't break under the weight of the conduit and hops.

Tower Top

And now I have a much stronger hops tower that I can easily put up and take down. One flaw in this design that hasn't been tested yet is whether or not the PVC sleeves will shift around if I take the conduit poles out for an extended period of time---say, over the winter. But for now, it's held up quite nicely, and my Nugget hops plant that was cast to the ground has once again risen!

Happy Hops