Hops and a Brush with Fame

Last Friday (March 26), webmaster Rick and I traveled to Stowe, VT, for a conference on hop-growing. We were accompanied (actually driven!) by Rick’s friend Rose, who was involved in the planning of the conference and got us invited… The conference was sponsored by the University of Vermont Extension, and gathered together farmers, brewers and others interested in hops and beer. With the growing interest (no pun intended) in locally-sourced foods, it’s only natural that brewers would also like to have local sources for their ingredients. UVM’s project is to try to grow barley and hops in Vermont, for Vermont breweries. Similar projects are underway in other states as well.

There were three featured speakers: Rick Pedersen, a farmer from Seneca Castle, NY, who has about 10 acres of hops along with his vegetables and livestock. He ran through a litany of all the things he has done wrong over the last several years in trying to grow hops commercially. Next up was Jason Perrault, a fourth generation hop-grower, breeder and developer from Yakima, Washington. He gave us a lot of botanical info on how hops grow, how they can be cultivated and developed as a business. Finally we heard from François Biron, a Quebec Ministry of Agriculture agronomist whose office is in its second year studying the feasibility of hop-growing in Quebec.

The conference was hosted at the Trapp Family Lodge – for the unaware, this is a hotel/resort perched on a hilltop above Stowe, with cross country ski trails, breathtaking views and first-class accommodations. And yes, it is connected to the Sound of Music – it was established by Maria and Baron Georg Von Trapp when they immigrated to the US. It is still in their family, a fact that was more than amply proven when, at lunch time, Rick, Rose and I were joined at our table by none other than Maria and Georg’s youngest son Johannes. He simply sat down, ate lunch with us, joined in our general conversation about hops, beer, etc… and told us all about his latest project at the resort, the establishment of an Austrian-style lager brewery.

After the featured speakers, the head brewer of the aforementioned brewery, Allen Van Anda, spoke to the conference briefly, explaining how they were brewing, the styles they were planning, and so on. We trouped down the road at the end and visited the brewery with Allen and the Lodge’s Director of Food & Beverage Jean-Luc Jenni…

Rick, Allen, Jean-Luc & the Guru - a virtual "Prost!"

admired (stared jealously is more like it) the gleaming stainless steel tanks and the oak barrels…

Old bourbon casks in which they are aging a doppelbock...

Unfortunately, they had not yet finished with all the paperwork necessary to actually pour us any beer. So we went away thirsty, but hopeful.

Unrelated to the conference, but a related topic: the first shoots of my hops are up, which for me is the truest sign of Spring. I will post pictures once they are clearly identifiable.

2 Replies to “Hops and a Brush with Fame”

  1. Sounds like an excellent conference and speakers! Beautiful setting too. Unfortunate about leaving beerless – that must have been tough.

    Good luck on your hops this year – mine sprouted way too early with our premature warm weather. I will probably cut these first sprouts back as they were under 6 inches of leaves while I was attempting to delay until closer to frost free times and they are sickly abino looking – we’ll see.

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