Cave-dwellers may be in the dark, but the knowledge of Asheville’s supremacy as Beer City USA (except for this year’s tie with Grand Rapids) is worldwide. Breweries are becoming as prevalent as pasture grass. The only negative for Asheville in this beer boom is the hop shortage that occurred nationally several years ago.
Fortunately, several local farms rose to the occasion and to the challenge (full growth potential takes several years). Although Asheville is still behind on total hops, these new growing champions of the beer spirits are not only helping breweries, but also turning the average home brewer into hobbyist hop gardeners.
Here are some of more prevalent hop growers in the region:
A family farm for over 150 years, Hop’n ‘Blueberry Farm sits near majestic Mt. Mitchell. Sustainable since day one, the farm also specializes in blueberries, medicinal plants and even butterfly flight houses. Owner, Van Burnette, realized the potential for hops when breweries began to sprout all over the region. Several years ago, Burnette received a grant from the Western North Carolina AgOptions Grant to transform his cattle farm into a thriving hop and blueberry farm.
Today, his farm invites people on Saturdays for tours. Guests will see hop production in full effect, take a bite of an heirloom apple from 125 year old stock, and witness a multitude of monarch butterflies who flock to the farm’s native milkweed.
For directions and tour info click here
John Wright and Rita Pelczar didn’t know much about the vining hop plant in 2007. Their oldest son, Jack, suggested that the couple use their farming wisdom and learn to grow the hop on their land in Marshall. A year later, the family planted their first crop. The soil and the hop were a perfect match, and the hopyard was expanded.
The addiction to growing the hop led the couple to get all professional by receiving the first USDA Organic Certification in 2009. They went a step further and joined the Southern Appalachian Hops Guild. Plus, they not only grew the hop, they brewed their own beer.
Quality control at its finest!
The best thing about Blue Ridge Hops is despite the farm’s move to market the hop, they have remained a small family farm business. All hops are harvested by hand, and all cones are dried on site. Brewers who practice the “wet hopping” technique can arrange delivery of fresh cones hours after being picked!
Julie Jensen grew up on Mid-western farm before becoming a lawyer in DC. Her interest in community-based youth programs brought Julie around to the idea of sustainable farming. Her fascination grew daily and before too long, Jensen forsook law for the dirt and opened Echoview Farm in Weaverville, NC. Presently, Julie’s farming model makes her one of the most prominent sustainable farmers in the area.
Echoview Farm is based on educating people about eco-minded practices. Jensen’s framework revolves around (among other things) solar power, bees, bamboo production, a fiber mill, and, of course, hops. Jensen chose the hop as her primary crop, and she uses the plant not only for beer brewing, but for art projects, wreaths, paper-making, and textiles.
Echoview offers tours, curriculums for visiting school teachers, and even a summer camp for girls