In the late 19th century, New York farms grew about 90% of the nation's supply of hops, a climbing plant that produces seed cones used to flavor and stabilize beer. The, with the advent of industrialized beer production, hops farming went stale.
Today, though, niche and craft brewing is "hot". And, hops farming is once again on the rise in the Northeast.
New York's legislature is considering a farm brewery license bill allowing farm brewers to bottle and sell products on or off premises in the wholesale or retail markets. The provisions also would require farm brewers to use a rising percentage of locally grown hops, explains Julie Suarez, director of public policy for New York Farm Bureau. .
What's a hop? In brief, it's a perennial vine usually trained to grow up on strings in a hop field or yard. Many different types are grown for particular styles of beer.
As interest in craft brewing in the Northeast surges, hops growers are looking for ways to improve production and yield, including growing a wider variety of hops more efficiently, to meet the needs of these brewers. That's why University of Vermont initiated winter conferences on the subject.
Hops growing conference set for March
On March 19, UVM Extension will sponsor its third annual Winter Hops Conference featuring hops experts, researchers and growers. It'll be held at the Sheraton Hotel and Conference Center in Burlington from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Daniel Sharp, Oregon State University, will discuss his research on aroma compounds in hops and beer including how the timing of the harvest influences important hop aroma qualities.
Chris Callahan, owner of Callahan Engineering, Cambridge, N.Y., and Roger Rainville, Borderview Farm, Alburgh, Vt., will talk about the small-scale mobile hops harvester and hops kiln they designed and built. UVM College of Engineering and Mathematical Sciences students will present their designs for small-scale balers.
Growers also will hear from three UVM Extension experts. Heather Darby, field crops and nutrient management specialist, and Rosalie Madden, field research technician, will present data collected from the UVM Extension research hopyard, including information on varietal differences, yields, hop pests and brewing quality.
UVM Plant Diagnostic Clinic Coordinator Ann Hazelrigg will explain how to identify and control hops farming problems in hopyards with a focus on basic pesticide rules and regulations and proper calibration and operation of spray equipment.
The conference also will include a panel of farmers describing their hops-growing experiences in the Northeast.Registrations are due by March 12. The fee is $45, $40 for Northeast Hop Alliance members, and includes lunch. To register, log onto www.uvm.edu/extension/hopsconference.