Cincinnati Business Courier
by Andy Brownfield
As the craft brewing industry explodes in Cincinnati and elsewhere, it’s giving rise to another industry to support it: hops farming.
Dave Volkman is a high school teacher who is retired from the U.S. Army Reserves. He owns 12 acres in Maineville and tried his hand at growing produce on it. When he was deployed to Iraq, he met someone from the U.S. Department of Agriculture who worked at an incubator for alternative crops in Piketon.
” When I got home, I poked around there to see what they had going on, and then that winter I flew to Germany for a wedding, and I passed through a region that’s the hop capital for Germany,” Volkman told me. “I saw those hop poles, and I’m a beer drinker – I like a good craft beer – and it got me thinking.”
Volkman started growing hops under his Ohio Valley Hops company name in 2012. The first year was a test crop to learn how the plant grows. He’s been increasing the amount of land devoted to the crop and had 600 plants this year. It takes hops plants about three years to mature, so Volkman is now ready to go to market, and his hops are being featured in a brew debuting next month at Urban Artifact.
Urban Artifact is premiering Calliope, a fresh hop grand cru-style beer, on October 13. It will be available in a limited selection of bars around the city but is expected to dry up by Oct. 26.
Hops are typically dried and turned into pellet form before they’re used in brewing, but Urban Artifact is using the fresh, un-dried hops from Volkman. Urban Artifact co-founder Bret Kollman Baker told me it adds a fresh, soft, green flavor to the beer that can be almost lemon-like.
Fresh hops are one of the few truly seasonal ingredients left in beer brewing, he said.
“You can get pumpkin any time of the year now. It used to be you only saw pumpkin beer after they got ripe, but now you have it months beforehand,” he said. “But hops are only available for a short window of time.”