Ramble On

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Hop Yard Progress Report - 2011

It's summertime, and what kind of summer would it be if I didn't conspire a visit over to Dan's hop yard to check on how things are going?  I looked back at past posts on the topic (see the Beaver Run Brewery label, which dates back to 2008, at least) and saw that my last visit during growing season was in August 2010, followed by a visit during Alpha Blond sampling season in February 2011.  All of which led me to conclude that it was indeed time for a visit before the summer gets much further along.

Now, before I get into the technical part of this post, there is a little story to tell about about last Saturday's Luray-Page Farmers Market.  I was visiting the Skyline Premium Meats booth, and then the Public House Produce booth - standing between the two to conserve walking back and forth - and David came around from behind the produce with a cooler.  He said, "I've got to show you something.  Now this isn't for you, I just want you to see it.  Jared, come over here a sec."

He pulled out a six pack from the cooler.  It was obviously home brew, in recycled bottles with the labels still on, and recycled crowns.  The work of a serious home brewer, no doubt, as you could tell from the packaging (I mean, these bottles were individually crowned!)  David explained that the six was barter for an armload of sweet corn.  Then, as he finished the tale, he said again, "It's not for you guys."

We talked for a minute about this home brew crowd that is around and thriving in Page County.  Seems a number of the folks work in the park, and they have a robust network.  Then I mentioned Dan's hop garden, and David said, "Oh yeah, Dan's a legend!" 

I smiled to myself about Dan's fame.  Seriously, I knew him back when the vines were just rhizomes, and now look at him.

I mentioned I have a technical portion to the post.  While I was in the hop yard I finally took a minute to make a note of the varieties here - although I can't tell which is which in the photos.  Dan's growing Centennial, Cascade, and Willamette hops, although he tells me the Willamettes don't do as well for him, possibly because their portion of the hop yard is shaded by a large black walnut tree.  He's thinking about moving them. 

He also has some agronomic research planned for later in the summer, with a vacation coming up to Yakima, WA - a prime hop growing region of the US.  He told me he hopes to take in some hop yard tours to look at how it's done on a large scale.  I can't wait to hear about that - possibly, well, preferably - with a Beaver Run Flat Tale Ale in arm's reach.

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