Hops growers fuel the craft beer industry’s ongoing success
As the craft beer movement continues to gain ground across the U.S., so does the growing hops movement. And what better time than October when beer-centric Oktoberfest celebrations are taking place around the globe to discuss this alternative crop?
Hops, the flowers of a vining plant that are integral in the beer-making process, are a major cash crop for many growers. Used as a flavoring and stability agent in beer, hops can give this favorite beverage a bitter, zesty, or citric flavor. Growing hops can be surprisingly easy, Craft Beer & Brewing Magazine suggests buying baby hops (also known as rhizomes) in March and April, then planting them once the ground has thawed in a south-facing location, that receives plenty of daytime sunlight, is slightly elevated, and drains well.
These plants need to be lightly, but frequently watered and because hops prefer to grow vertically, hops growers should have effective support methods in place such as lengths of sturdy twine or trellis systems. Once the hop cones have lightened in color, dried, and are feeling papery – usually by late August or early September – it’s time to harvest. Once harvested, hops growers can cash in, selling their bounty to craft brewers.
The growing hops movement is showing no signs of slowing down, and many experts consider the rise of the craft beer industry a blessing for independent farmers. Many farmers are successfully diversifying their operations with hops and selling their harvest to high-end microbreweries.
The Pacific coastal states currently contribute the majority of the North American commercial hop production, with Washington producing roughly 70 percent.