What is in this article?:
- Demand, interest in hops soaring in North Carolina
- Charmed by people, environment
- Want locally grown hops
• The crop is not native to the Tar Heel state, but has been grown in the past and can be grown now, but just how to do that has proven to be a perplexing challenge.
A HOP YARD at the Mountain Horticultural Research Station in Mills River, N.C.
Charmed by people, environment
When asked why they chose to move to the mountains of western North Carolina, a Sierra Nevada spokesperson says, “We were charmed by the people and environment in Asheville. We love the sense of the outdoors and connection to the land, as well as the amazing beer culture and brewing scene that’s sprung up over the past decade.”
Currently, New Belgium and Oskar Blues breweries are in the process of establishing breweries in North Carolina.
New Belgium, which markets the highly successful Fat tire brand beer, plans to break ground for it $175 million facility in the first quarter of 2013 and plans to begin brewing beer there by early 2015.
Oskar Blues will actually be the first of three breweries to begin operation from their plant in Brevard, N.C.
In addition to national craft brewers, like Sierra Nevada and New Belgium, a number of local craft brewers, or micro brewers have been highly successful in western North Carolina, especially in and around Asheville.
“And, making home beer has become such a big hobby that there are now competitions, much like chili cook-offs”, Davis says.
Growing hops in the cool mountain air of western North Carolina may seem like a natural, because of the similarity with areas in southern Germany, in which hops production is done on a large scale. However, in reality, most of the old world hops varieties grown in Europe aren’t well suited at all for production in the Upper Southeast.
Though Germany, in particular Bavaria, is the largest hops producer in the world, with about 35 percent of worldwide hops production, the U.S. is rapidly gaining, producing about 24 percent of global output.
In the U.S., hops production is highly concentrated in Idaho, Washington and Oregon. Davis notes that hops grows best between the 35th and 55th latitude, considerably farther north than North Carolina.
Even the Pacific Northwest, at the bottom end of the ideal crops production area, growers can count on 16 or more hours of daylight during peak hops growing season. In western North Carolina, maximum daylight is about 14 hours.
This is critical because hops is a highly day-length sensitive crop. Davis points out there are now some hops varieties that are more daylight neutral and require less daylight than varieties grown in most areas of the world.
“These day-length neutral varieties, bred in South Africa, are the ones we need to use in North Carolina, she says.
“Brewers will likely ask for more commonly known aromatic hops, but any new grower should grow hops varieties suited for production in North Carolina, and then convince the brewer to use these varieties,” she adds.
“There are some indications that growing day-length sensitive varieties here in North Carolina is severely limiting our yields. In some cases, we may be losing up to 85 percent of potential yield, just because we are trying to grow the wrong varieties”.