Ramble On

Monday, March 7, 2016

The 2016 South Atlantic Hops Conference - part 1

Note:  after I published this post, a few of the attendees and organizers of the read the post and offered some edits.  I've edited the portions where I received comments and updates.  Thanks to all for the reveiws! - JT) 

Last year during the planning stages for Hawksbill Hop Yards I attended what was then called "The North Carolina - Virginia Regional Hops Conference" - there's a link to my post on the conference here.  I'm guessing that around 150 people attended that event, which was held in Winston-Salem, NC.

I found this photo of the conference on-line.  Full house - and yeah, that's me
in the right foreground.

Flash forward just about a year later, and not only is our hop yard built and now a year old, but there is a whole lot more interest in growing hops for the regions rapidly expanding craft brewing industry.  So much so, in fact, that nearly 300 people attended the conference this year. The name was even changed to reflect growing regional interest - farmers from Maryland, West Virginia, Tennessee, and even Florida attended.

Here's a model of a hop yard.  The design is similar to ours.

Like last year, a large share of the conference was organized by NC State, but there is a growing interest at Virginia Tech, which sent along its share of specialists.  On Saturday, there were 10 sessions for growers:
  • The Status of the Industry, presented by Ann George of the Washington Hop Commission,, Hop Growers of America
  • Small-scale Hop Yard Construction, by David Goode of Piedmont Hops
  • Harvesting Hops and Quality Issues, by James Altwies of Gorst Valley Hops
  • Growing and Marketing Hops on a Diversified Farm, by Dan Gridley of Farm Boy Farms
  • Hops and Beer Chemistry in the South Atlantic, by Ken Hurley of Virginia Tech
  • All About Starter Plants, a panel
  • Managing Downy Mildes on Hops in the South, by Lina Quesada-Ocampo of NC State
  • What Brewers Want and Experiences with Local Hops, a panel
  • Processing Hops, by James Altwies
  • Here's Nat from ODHC with his "mini-oast" - he developed this
    for one row of late harvest hops in his fields.
  • New Opportunities, Best Practices in Self-Certification Program, by Ann George

It was a lot to choose from and sometimes it was difficult to decide which one to go to - I made my way through the processing and quality series, since we're already underway.  I learned quite a bit, and managed to get some networking in with my colleagues from the Old Dominion Hops Cooperative.

I wasn't able to get down there for the first day of the conference, which was Friday.  There were sessions that day as well, and there was a tour of three of the Richmond-area hop yards.  I'm told that there were more than 110 people on the tours, enough to need to separate them into two buses of 50+ each.  After the farm tours, they made brewery stops at Hardywood Park, Ardent Craft, and Strangeways, all of whom have been known to brew with local hops.  

All in all, a successful trip.  Now we're looking forward to the 2016 growing season!

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