Burnette’s again this past July for distribution and also for sale in-house as a premium beer costing $4 a pint on draft. It was, Caughman said, a “once a year, come and get it” kind of thing, with the supply expected to last a month. “The hops came straight from the field. Put in the beer the same day.” “It’s good,” he said. “It’s a nice hoppy beer, has a lot of flavor hops and a lot of aroma hops.” Burnette’s Fresh Hop Pale Ale also included some of Winding River’s Nugget-variety hops. Familiar with the aroma from picking the cones, “I could taste the Nugget” in the beer, Grahl says.
Wet hops, dry hops Hops are to malt barley what spices are to foods. Their acids and oils counteract the barley’s sweetness, and add stability, aroma and flavor. Each variety is slightly different, and even the soil the hops are grown in can affect the taste. Wet hops, which Grahl says have the most flavor, have to be used immediately after harvest. Dried hops give the brewer more flexibility in timing. Dried by a variety of means, they can be vacuum-sealed in oxygen-free bags for extra longevity. A more familiar form nationwide is the dried and pelletized hop coming out of Oregon and Washington. “You take your dried whole hops cone, and you pulverize it,” says Ric Horst, general manager of EchoView Farm, a French Broad EMC member in Weaverville. When formed into pellets, he says, “It kind of looks like rabbit or goat feed.” EchoView, in its third year of growing, is investing not only in an oast (a hops kiln) to dry the hops, but also in pelletizing equipment. It now sells some dried whole hops, and by next
season, it will be able not only to pelletize its own hops but those of other farmers. “Most of your breweries here in Asheville prefer pelletized hops,” Horst says. Chris Reedy at Southern Appalachian Hops Guild says that wet hops are a way for beginning growers to jump into the market. But considering the limited window for using wet hops— “You have to use them within four to eight hours of picking them”—he thinks that they will end up being only one part of the hops picture. “I think dried hops are going to have to be there,” he says. EchoView plans to offer growers a laboratory analysis of the hops, a necessity when selling to breweries, Horst says. Scott Grahl intends to start getting a laboratory analysis next year.
The five-year test Last year, only four plants reached the top of the trellis at Winding River Hops. Grahl and Willis contented themselves with fighting weeds and adding soil nutrients. This year, he had the help of friends at harvest time, when he climbed a special ladder that reached to the top of the trellis to hand-harvest the cones. In both quantity and quality, he said, “Everything I am getting off the vines this year and selling is actually above my expectations.” At the end of five years, he says, he’ll know if what he wants to prove with the cones is true: That hops can be grown successfully, even in originallypoor soil, and that they present a viable alternative for mountain farmers who want to continue farming rather than sell their land for development. If he’s right, he says, he and Willis may
expand to more land nearby, buy a larger trellis system and someday be able to be fulltime farmers. He presently works with Evergreen Packaging in Waynesville, and she is with the patient financial services department of Haywood County Hospital. “We’re not trying to compete with the Budweisers and the 1,000-acre hops fields of the Pacific Northwest,” he says. These local growers are simply catering to the local marketplace, he says, “so a hops farmer can add something fresh and local to their local economy.”
Carolina Country contributor Hannah Miller lives in Charlotte. In August’s magazine she wrote about markets for North Carolina foods.
Immediately above: Winding River partners Willis and Grahl surrounded by hops. Top, left: Grahl is dwarfed by his 17½-foothigh hops plants. Top, middle: The luplin gland, the part of the hops cone that holds the oils and imparts taste and aroma. Top, right: Hops cones resemble small green pine cones. Carolina Country OCTOBER 2010 17
Carolina Country Magazine, Setember 2010