Craft Brewing Business
by Chris Crowell
Craft beer is becoming more and more important within the state of Ohio, and the state’s premier university has taken notice and wants to help. According to The Columbus Dispatch, researchers at THE Ohio State University are trying to revive the area’s hop growing capabilities, which as the article points out, is no easy task:
A century ago, hops commonly were grown in Ohio, before pests and other problems forced production west, where most growing remains today.
Researchers are trying to identify the best-growing and most-pest-resistant hops for Ohio growers, as well as develop a supply chain and market for locally grown hops. The goal is to keep at home some of the $4 million the state’s craft brewers pay each year for hops grown elsewhere. If successful, Ohio-grown hops also could give a unique twist to beer made here.
“We’re not certain this is going to work, but we have high hopes,” said Brad Bergefurd, an OSU Extension educator who works at OSU’s South Centers research facility in Piketon. He and OSU entomologist Mary Gardiner are working on the hops project.
The research is still in the early going, and as the quote above shows, not even the researchers themselves are sure about what the result will be, let alone how influential the hop growing movement could be in the state if they come up with the right hop to grow in the Buckeye State. As the president of the Ohio Craft Brewers Association explained:
“I think it’s an interesting idea,” said Eric Bean, president of the Ohio Craft Brewers Association. “But the whole issue is: Will there be enough hops?”
The nature of the market might be a limiting factor for new Ohio growers. Brewers contract three years out for their hops, which come on the market only during brief harvest windows each year, Bean said. Even if Ohio growers can earn between $7,000 and $20,000 per acre for their hop flowers, as estimated by OSU researchers, building hop yards across Ohio would be expensive.
Still, it’s an intriguing idea both for the economy of Ohio and for Ohio’s craft brewing scene. A new Ohio hop could contribute a cool regional uniqueness to Ohio beers. Definitely head to The Columbus Dispatch for the full story.