Virginia Gets Hopping!
As a crop, hops are labor intensive, require a trellis system, take up to three years to mature, and federal crop insurance isn’t available for hops.
And while hops are being grown in Virginia, there just isn’t enough being produced annually to supply the current number of craft brewers in the Commonwealth. Industry figures show that only 25 acres of hops were being grown in Virginia in 2014 compared with more than 29,000 acres in the state of Washington (the number one producer of hops in the United States). That is about to change.
With the rapid growth in the craft brewing industry in Virginia, there has also been a growing interest in supplying that industry with hops grown locally. A number of co-ops have been formed to promote the farming of hops in Virginia by sharing information and resources on planting, care, harvesting, marketing, and many other aspects of hops farming.
Some craft brewers, such as Hardywood Park in Richmond, have sourced their customers by offering to give them hop rhizomes (rootstocks) at the brewery to take home to plant, and then return the hops at harvest time to the brewery where they are used to make their RVA IPA. According to Brian Nelson at Hardywood, last year they took in over 70 pounds of hops through what they are calling the Community Hop Project.
In Nov 2014 Governor Terry McAuliffe announced that Black Hops Farm, LLC in Loudoun County would initially convert 15 acres of former pastureland into a hopsyard and build a new processing facility. Once completed, it will become the largest hopsyard in Virginia, and the Mid-Atlantic’s first commercial-scale hops production and processing facility.
This facility will provide important hops processing services for the entire region. Not only will the farm provide fresh hops needed for brewing, but the drying and pelletizing facility will extend the availability and quality of Virginia grown hops past the harvest season. It is also hoped that by having a facility nearby to process hops will encourage more local farmers to grow hops, and there by expand the potential market. In June 2015 the first 5,300 hops plants were laid out. One day soon,
This will fill a critical need for current and future craft brewers and serve to increase Virginia’s position in the fast growing craft beer industry, and as a source for quality hops.
Virginia could one day become the hops capital of the East Coast.