08 August 2009

History of New York Hops

Brewing beer requires ingredients such as hops, malt, and barley. Most all hops used in beer making in the early United States were grown around the Cooperstown New York region until the 1900's. While visiting my old hometown this summer, I ventured to nearby Cooperstown, where I haven't been in decades. I was surprised to learn that there were two breweries in the area, so of course we had to stop in.

While at the Cooperstown Brewing Company and Ommegang Brewery, I learned of the area's great history and tradition of growing hops. Growing up in Johnson City, a mere one hour away, I never knew this. A little research online after arriving back in Virginia yielded some interesting facts and history about my home state's hop-growing industry.

I want to highlight some points from an interesting article The Past, Present, and Yes Future of the Hops Industry written by Richard Vang in 1996 for Upstate Alive magazine:
  • By the civil war, 90% of hops grown in the United States were from New York.
  • The decline of hops growing was due to high price fluctuations due to wild swings in supply and demand, competition from growers in the west, mold, hops aphids, and Prohibition
  • Hops grow up poles like vines and must be trained when young
  • Breweries and dairy farms in the area are creating a sustainable, symbiotic relationship for feed and fertilzer
  • The Belgian brewery mentioned in the article is already up and running (Ommegang), producing award-winning beers, and cannot keep up with demand.
As far as the brewery tours and tastings went, my taste buds preferred Cooperstown Brewing's "Pride of Milford" (which doesn't fit into any beer category.) However, the tasting in Ommegang, which brews award-winning Belgian beer, came with crackers, chocolate, and beer cheeses, and was in a very pleasant room with old-world charm.
(I did not take the hops photos - I don't have hops in my garden.)

Garden Calendar:
  • Blooming: Cosmos, cleome, zinnia, nicotiana, nasturtium, sunflowers, snapdragon
  • Harvested 10 tomatoes


Growinghops said...
I heard New York was making a comeback in growing hops. I would think with today's agricultural knowledge, the problems of the past would be able to be dealt with today.

With the current craze of keeping it local, it is a boon to today's farmers. Every New York farmer should check into the viability of hop farming and see if it is an option for their location and setup.
Melissa said...
We grow hops in NY and offer them for sale in local homebrew shops, and direct from us. Visit us at www.facebook.com/kalbflieshfamilyfarm They will also be available on etsy as well.