EAST AURORA, NY — With partial funding by the Farm Credit Northeast AgEnhancement program, Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) of Erie County hosted a two-day workshop taught by New York State hops specialist Steve Miller; NWNY Dairy Team Crop Specialist Bill Verbeten; and Chris Gerling, extension sssociate at the Cornell Geneva Farm.
The workshop had 64 participants from three different states.
During day one of the workshop, the attendees attended an in-classroom discussion addressing several topics, with titles such as: Hops, Economics of Hops, Growing Brewing Grains, Cornell Hops Field Trials, Hops IPM and New York State legislation on Farm-Based Beverages.
The bulk of the audience was existing farmers exploring a new market. Steve Miller gave the economics of producing hops and the expenses associated with start-up, “I think people need to understand the costs of production before they even get into the hops business, there is money to be made but it doesn’t come without cost.”
Bill Verbeten gave a great overview of growing brewing grains and spoke explained that this is an agricultural industry left untouched by many farmers.
Chris Gerling discussed the signed legislation that supports and strengthens New York’s craft breweries with the goal of increased demand for locally grown products in New York State. Gerling said, “Starting a farm brewery is a simpler way of starting a brewery, but it certainly doesn’t happen without challenges.”
The second day of the workshop the group took a charter bus to Vines and Bines hops and brewing grains farm in Lockport, NY where they learned about growing hops on a short trellis system, as well as how to malt barley. Robert Johnson, owner of Vines and Bines, enlightened the participants with his knowledge about the two crops and the workings of his farm.
After touring the farm the group traveled to Hamburg Brewery in Hamburg, NY where the attendees got to taste local brewed beer. On tap that night was a beer named Gary’s Ale, which was made using hops from a local grower. The recipe for this beer was different because the brewers used wet hops instead of hops pellets. John Russo, owner of Hamburg Brewery, gave a tour of the brewing facility and talked about the needs of a brewer when it comes to hops and brewing grains. He expressed that recently there has been a lot of interest in new hops varieties giving way to new flavors of beer.
The cost of the workshop was generously offset by the Farm Credit Northeast AgEnhancement program.