The group is composed of the following.
Project coordinator Dave Volkman, owner of Ohio Valley Hops, a 1 ½ acre hopyard he and his wife started in 2012. Dave is a founder of the Ohio Hop Growers Guild (OHGG) and is currently the chair of their Board of Directors. He has spoken about Ohio hops at the last two annual conventions of the Ohio Craft Brewers Association, and is scheduled again for 2018, and has been a featured speaker at the Ohio State University hops conference, at two county Farm Bureau annual meetings, and on several podcasts. He is also Ohio’s representative on the Hop Grower’s of America Small Grower Council. He is one of three Ohio growers with a mobile hop harvester and does custom work across the state.
Brady Kirwan and his wife Amanda own Old Dutch Hops, a 2 acre hopyard they started in 2013 and Ohio’s only OEFFA certified organic hop farm. Brady is past Secretary of the OHGG and an active member of the OHGG Standards and Member Services committees, and also owns a mobile harvester, doing custom work.
Jamie Arthur owns Little Miami Farms, a 1 acre hopyard he started in 2013, and is a past director of the OHGG and chair of our member services committee, assisting Ohio growers with bulk purchasing of hop growing supplies, and is also spearheading the advancement of Ohio malting barley.
Erik Niceswanger has grown 2 acres of hops at Hopalong Farm since 2015, and is an active member of two OHGG committees.
Dan Hoy, owner of Hidden Lake Farm has grown 1 ½ acres of hops since 2015 and is chair of the OHGG Standards committee, and led the development of hop growing quality standards in coordination with the Ohio Craft Brewers Association to ensure Ohio hops meet the highest standards from planting through processing, the first of its kind in Midwestern states.
All have sold hops to Ohio craft brewers and developed a strong understanding of brewer requirements.
We will determine the optimal harvest time of ten popular hop varieties in Ohio.
Hop farming is growing in Midwestern agriculture, composed of many small farmers. As craft brewing has grown, so has demand for ingredients. Brewers express strong desire for local hops, but demand quality that meets industry standards for chemistry and excellent aroma and flavor. Much of this is determined by growing practices, particularly harvest timing. Hops have an optimal harvest time, and exhibit noticeable increase, peak and decrease of chemical components that affect crop quality. Large commercial growers in the Pacific Northwest (with decades of experience and scientific staffs) know these optimal harvest windows, but it’s proprietary information, unknown to Midwestern growers, and may vary by region, even if we had their data. Those growers acknowledge harvest ranges from 18% to 26% dry matter content, unique to each variety. Determining what those numbers are for leading varieties here will greatly improve the economic viability of this high value specialty crop by ensuring the highest quality and therefore most competitive hop. As growers gain required knowledge and experience, quality, demand and profit will increase.
- Determine the optimal harvest timing of ten of the most popular hop varieties grown in Ohio.
- Share findings widely with other growers across the Midwest and Northeast through website, social media and conference presentations.
- Share findings with the Ohio Craft Brewers Association to promote advances in quality, and encourage other state’s growers to do the same with their affiliated brewers associations.
May-July 2018. I bought supplies, met with participants to confirm procedures and deliver supplies.
July-September 2018. Growers picked a 60 gram sample of designated varieties weekly, commencing five weeks after variety bloom (the time needed to reach early maturity). Each vacuum sealed a 30 gram sample of each variety, and shipped to a testing lab for analysis. Growers also dried 30 grams to 8-10% moisture, vacuum sealed, labelled and froze for later use at a brewers’ sensory evaluation panel. This year, weather patterns were unusual, leading to several growers being unable to participate as harvest came weeks earlier than anticipated. Those remaining harvest samples and testing will be conducted this summer.
October-November 2018. I compiled the lab results of each variety in a data table, determining when each reached its peak values for five data points important to brewers, according to moisture content.
Winter 2019. I will assemble a panel of craft brewers this winter (we already have regionally respected brewers known for their palates who have agreed to do this) and conduct blind evaluations of each variety using the Kostelecky Method for hop aroma evaluation. Brewers will evaluate and rank the samples for best aromatic properties within a variety, taking notes on their characteristics, according to harvest dry matter content and log those on data forms to generate industry standard spider charts.
Summer 2019: Complete testing that was not completed in summer 2018.
Fall 2019: Repeat craft brewer panel for sensory evaluation.
December 2019. We will compile data to identify the window of optimal harvest timing for chemistry and aroma based on lab tests and brewer evaluations and publish this for use by brewers and growers.
Lab testing results are incomplete at this time.
Sensory analysis is TBD.
Educational & Outreach Activities
At this point, our research is not complete and we have only incomplete data to share.
We have, however, made our study goals and expected outcomes widely known in the Ohio hop growing and craft brewing communities, where there is much interest for its usefulness and
Our plan is as follows:
We will develop a flyer, presentation and video with all lab data and brewer sensory evaluations, clearly identifying the window of optimal harvest timing for each variety by chemistry and aroma based on lab tests and brewer evaluations and publish this for use by brewers and growers.
We will share all this information through the Ohio Hop Growers Guild’s website and Facebook pages, and also on a Facebook national hop growers’ forum that has over 1800 members. As partners of the Hops Research program at the Ohio State University, we will share with them and through Ohio State’s email listserve. We will share with the Hop Growers of America Small Grower Council, which will make it available to statewide associations in Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Nebraska, New York, Virginia and Wisconsin. We will make results and videos of the lab and sensory evaluation available on request. We will also present our findings at the Ohio State University’s annual Hops Conference. As allied members of the Ohio Craft Brewers Association (OCBA), we will be able to publish the project and results on their social media and request to present our findings at their annual conference.
Outreach will reach hundreds of small commercial hop growers, and thousands of potential hop growers who follow these listserves and Facebook groups. In Ohio, we will reach over 200 breweries and their brewers, and other states may do the same.
Our early (and incomplete) data indicates that there are very clear patterns in the levels of desirable chemical levels (hop alpha acids and beta acids).
Ohio had unusual patterns of heat and moisture this past Spring and Summer that affected flowering and maturity. That was a barrier to completing more of this study that could not have been foreseen or overcome.
The advantages of this project are that it can be completed at a relatively low cost, with practical and actionable farmer ready information resulting. It could be replicated by hop growers in any region to identify optimal harvest timing for their region.
For more information on this project or type of project, I would recommend farmers talk with universities in their region that are conducting hop research, or to their state growers association if they have one.
None yet. Project is incomplete.
None yet. Project is incomplete.