‘Can you really grow hops in North Carolina?’
That’s what more than 100 home brewers, craft brewers, growers and Cooperative Extension agents came to find out on a Saturday morning at N.C. State University’s Research hop yard tour and field day. The event focused on the ins and outs of hop growing in North Carolina.
And this wasn’t your usual agriculture field day crowd. Instead of the John Deere caps and work pants you might see at most field days, this crowd sported brewery shirts and tie-dye, and several home brewers even showed up with kids in tow.
The crowd reflected a growing interest in craft brewing in North Carolina, home to more than 60 craft breweries. The state’s craft beer climate has attracted attention of major craft brewers, like Sierra Nevada, New Belgium and Oskar Blues that plan to locate breweries here in the near future.
To get out word of the field day, Scott King, Cooperative Extension associate in soil science at N.C. State, contacted the N.C. Brewers Guild, commercial growers and Extension agents, as well as home brew supply stories in the Triangle area. And apparently, his effort paid off.
N.C. State University is relatively new to hop research. The Lake Wheeler Road hop yard was started only three years ago, and the one at the Mountain Horticultural Crops Research Station in Mills River was developed last year. Raleigh’s hop yard was built with a 12-foot trellis system, while the one at Mills River has a 20-foot trellis. The systems are similar to those used in the Pacific Northwest hop industry, where most of the U.S. hops is grown.
Though North Carolina growers face challenges in growing hops, it can be done, field day participants learned. Choosing the right variety is key to success, and that’s one of the questions that the two research hop yards are trying to determine.
To read more about the research hop yard tours, visit the CALS News Center.