The Herald Bulletin

January 15, 2014

Hops demand grows as breweries bloom

Plants can take three years to mature for use in beer

By Kelly Dickey The Herald Bulletin
The Herald Bulletin

---- — ANDERSON — The local food movement is creating higher demand for Indiana-grown hops, but it may take several years for the supply to catch up.

More Hoosiers are looking into growing hops, the flower that gives beer its bitter taste, as the popularity of local breweries has grown.

Lori Hoagland, a professor of horticulture and landscape architecture at Purdue University, said she doesn’t know how many hops farmers are in Indiana but the number is likely growing.

“I’m getting more calls and interest from growers looking for information,” she said. “My sense is it’s becoming more popular.”

The majority of hops are grown in the Pacific Northwest, but people in other states throughout the country are slowly becoming more interested.

Similarly to grapes, Hoagland said, it takes about three years until hop yields are mature enough to be used in beer.

Dave Waldman, operations director and co-founder of Triton Brewing Company in Indianapolis, said between contracts and Indiana yields being in their infancy, it will be a while until he could use locally grown hops.

“The challenge is Indiana is very young to the hop industry,” he said. “All things being equal, if it’s the same quality, we would first choose Indiana-raised hops.”

One of the biggest challenges Hoosiers interested in growing the cone-like flower have is the cost of equipment, at least on a large scale, Hoagland said. There are also certain pathogens in the state that could cause problems to the yields.

It hasn’t stopped everyone from trying, though.

In Knightstown, a small hop farm called Three Hammers Farms has been growing the flower to sell to brewers, although no one from the company was available Tuesday afternoon.

Other people around the state are interested in hops for their own brews.

Salesman Wes Martin at Great Fermentations, a beer and wine making supplier in Indianapolis, said more customers have shown an interest in growing their own hops. The store sometimes allows customers to pre-order hop cuttings in the spring so they can grow their own supply, but the rest of Great Fermentations’ inventory is ready for customers to brew.

The store sells about 50 varieties of hop leaves and pellets, Martin said. Great Fermentations gets its supply mainly from the Pacific Northwest, although some do come from out of the country.

Kathleen Sprouse, agriculture and natural resources educator for the Madison County Purdue Extension, said even if the area’s residents aren’t sure if they want to harvest hops, they can still get in on the local food movement.

“Madison County’s soil is good for growing fruit,” she said. “So if people really wanted to, they could grow fruit for specialty beers.”

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