Growers looking to supply hops to Ohio’s booming microbrewery industry need to first research which varieties of hops craft brewers want to avoid the costly mistake of investing in the wrong types, a horticulture expert with Ohio State University’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences says.
Ohio beer manufacturers spend an estimated $4 million annually on purchases of hop cones, or hops, to create craft beers. This creates a huge opportunity for local growers to get into hops production, said Brad Bergefurd, a horticulturist with Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center.
Because the majority of those hops are sourced in states west of Ohio, the opportunity to grow and expand local hops production is significant. Hops are a main ingredient in beer manufacturing that provides bitterness to balance the sweetness of malt sugars.
“Microbrewing is growing quickly in Ohio, with over 100 craft brewers licensed statewide over the past two years,” Bergefurd said. “And these breweries need locally grown ingredients like hops and malting barley, the two main ingredients needed in many of the brews.
“But because different brewers use different hops varieties for their craft beers, it’s important for growers to know the market in terms of the varieties that brewers need before growers invest in their first rhizomes (plant roots).”
To help growers interested in learning more about hops production, including how to market the increasingly popular ingredient to Ohio’s breweries, Bergefurd and other Ohio hops researchers will host a workshop Feb. 13 featuring presentations from entomologists, plant pathologists and horticulturists with OSU Extension and OARDC.
Participants can learn about new hops cultivars and innovative hops production techniques. Participants can also sign up to tour a local brewery after the program to learn more about what those in the industry are looking for from hops growers, he said.
Investigators will also discuss findings from the Ohio hops research program, which is evaluating new cultivars, innovative production techniques, insect and disease control methods, and harvesting, processing and marketing techniques that can be adopted by Ohio farmers.
The two-year project is funded by a U.S. Department of Agriculture Specialty Crop Block grant to grow the Ohio hops market, which will allow Ohio’s beer manufacturers to spend their money in Ohio by purchasing Ohio-grown hops and ultimately help create Ohio jobs.
Ohio State researchers estimate that within the first year growers can expect dry hops yields of 200 to 1,800 pounds per acre, depending on the cultivar, with an estimated value of $2,000 to $25,200. In the second and subsequent production years, yields should increase to 500 to 2,200 dry pounds per acre valued at $7,000 to $30,800.
Other workshop topics:
• Trellis design and construction.
• Field and plant maintenance.
• Pests and diseases.
• Processing and food safety regulations.
• Distribution and marketing.
• USDA and Farm Service Agency programs for hops growers.
The program runs from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. in Fisher Auditorium on the OARDC campus at 1680 Madison Ave., Wooster.
Registration for the workshop is $25 and includes the program, handouts, refreshments and lunch. Contact Charissa McGlothin at 740-289-2071, ext. 132, for more information or to register. The deadline to register is Jan. 31. The brewery tour is outside of the program schedule and costs an additional $5.