Locally sourced hops boost West Virginia's craft beer industry
The craft beer industry is booming in West Virginia, with more than 20 active breweries in the state. Unfortunately, brewers are forced to outsource many of their ingredients, including hops, because no in-state farmers were growing the crop. An integrated research and Extension initiative is seeking to determine the feasibility of growing hops in the state by conducting trials with growers, educating people about production and growth processes and consulting with the state's breweries on their interest in locally sourced hops.
Increasing hops production in the state will present a new economic driver for farmers. On average, breweries reportedly pay up to $10 per pound for fresh, locally grown hops. If a farmer plants 900 to 1,000 hop plants per acre, this could lead to $18,000 per acre in gross revenue for the sale of fresh hops. In addition, dried and pelleted hops are often more desired by breweries, with a sale price of $20 to $30 per pound. Meanwhile, having a more locally sourced beer benefits both the brewers and consumers.
During the program's first three years, Extension educators have worked directly with 35 farmers on production trials, another 35 farmers for information sharing, and 80 people in educational workshops and events, reaching people in 25 counties throughout the state. To date, the hops are growing well and are expected to produce approximately two pounds of fresh hops per plant during the 2018 growing season.
The breweries in West Virginia have been incredibly supportive of the project, with some already purchasing hops from program participants. For instance, two local brewers purchased a combined 250+ pounds of hops from participating farmers during the 2017 harvest season.