Cut the Crap about “Low Temperature” Hop Drying

Hey there Hop Fans…for once I get to take a back seat to an absolute AUTHORITY on food product quality, especially hops.  

There is so much hyperbole around hop drying that it is cringe-worthy.  Time to set the bar with authority and expertise.  Gang, I introduce Mr. Daniel Dettmers, leading expert on food processing quality and preservation, world-wide.

How low can you go? The truth about “Low Temperature Drying”

Sorry if it seems I’m boasting, but Gorst Valley was (and still is) the pioneer in low temperature drying for the hops industry.

The term “low temperature” seems to have many growers and brewers confused. What is Low Temperature?

150F?

140F?

135F?

100F?

45F?

Let’s explore this concept and see what is possible.

Is heat a bad thing for hops?

Heat is bad. Period. End of story.

OK, heat helps moisture evaporate, which is good. We want that moisture to leave our hops to prevent rot.

But heat also drives away oils, aromas and all the wonderful flavors we want from our hops to flavor our beer. At 100F, the oils and aromas evaporate quickly. At 140F, the heat breaks down alpha acids and we lose bittering potential. Above 160F, the hops rapidly turn yellow like straw and taste about the same. No one goes much above 140F but many define “low temperature” drying as 135F. Is that really as low as we can go? 5 little degrees? Isn’t 135F still driving away many of those flavoring compounds?

Why add heat then?

The drying process is dictated not by temperature but by the relative humidity (RH) of the air. The lower the RH, the thirstier the air is. Thirsty air grabs more water from the hops and dries them out faster.

So how do we lower the relative humidity? The easiest way is to heat the air. It doesn’t remove existing moisture but it does increase the holding capacity of the air. So the warmer the air, the lower the RH. Air at 50% RH and normal temperatures can drop to an RH under 10% at 140F. This gives us a huge drying potential and can dry out our hops very quickly…but at the cost of crappy hops.

Is there an alternative to heat?

There’s always alternatives but everything has a cost. Air at ambient (outside) temperatures below 100F does a fine job of drying down to a hop moisture content of 20% or less. What’s the draw back? It takes more air (i.e. bigger fans) and more time. If the relative humidity falls low enough, hops can be dried using nothing but ambient air.

In areas with naturally high outdoor humidity, we cannot rely on having a dry day (i.e. low RH) to dry our hops properly. What we can do is use that outside air to drive most of the moisture out and then use little heat or a lot of dehumidification to finish off the drying process.

By keeping the drying process at 100F or less, the hops can retain significantly more oils, aromas and other things that makes our beer taste so good

Why not go colder?

Often we have heard, “If ambient temperature is better, then I’ll go lower. I’m going to dry my hops in my walk-in cooler.” Slow down there cowboy, that’s a bit too low. As the air temperature goes down, the relative humidity goes WAY up. A walk-in cooler typically runs at a relative humidity of 80% or better and can only remove minute amounts of moisture. The hops will slowly rot in their cool environment.

What is Low Temperature Drying then?

Gorst Valley would like to set the bar for the industry…and set it low. In our dictionary, “Low Temperature Drying” means drying at 100F or less without any unnecessary heat addition to the process. This is our AromaSmart process and we extend it all the way through our pelletizing process.

“Wait!” you say. “What does ‘unnecessary’ mean? Ah-ha! You are still adding heat at the end of the drying process!” No, it gets cold in Wisconsin. During some of our late season harvests, the night time temperature can drift near the freezing range so it’s sometimes necessary for us to warm the air up to keep the hops from freezing but this is rare.

What’s the drawback of true low temperature drying? It takes us a longer. As much as 5 times longer but we feel this extra effort is worth it to produce the highest quality hops possible.

The AromaSmartTM Pledge

At Gorst Valley Hops, we pledge:

  1. No Heat. If it is 75F degrees out, we will be drying those hops at 75F to preserve the flavors and aroma’s for our brewer’s kettles.
  2. We use dehumidfictaion. We have linked up with a dehumidifier manufacturer that leads the way in providing dehumdfiers to the agricultural industry. No heat added to finish drying our hops.
  3. We keep it cold. Our hops travel from the dryer to the baler to the cold storage where they stay until they are run through the pelletizer while covered in a blanket of cryogenic nitrogen. It keeps the pellets below 100F while chasing away the oxygen.  Oxygen is worse than heat during processing.
  4. Vacuum packed and frozen until they reach the kettle. Why put all this work into quality if we aren’t going to protect the final product?

End of Story.  Accept no hyperbole.  When someone says their hops are dried using “low temperature” ask them what that means.  If it’s above 100F then call bullsh*t on that!

 

More Penny Vampires Exposed

The last post about the Penny Vampire covered the most common species.  They do little immediate damage but over time they can be deadly.  Good thing they are easily defeated with simple tools.

Unfortunately there are darker forces afoot that although less common they serve a much more immediate danger.  And for me they are harder to post a strong defense against without being an ass.

Slow but Infectious Complacency

I don’t believe any of we hop growers believe we’re complacent.  Honestly a complacent hop grower is a soon-to-be extinct hop grower.  I’m referring to the tendency to become lazy about certain aspects and accepting it in your employees.

Setting the Example

Complacency Vampires affecting others can be successfully defeated through very clear communication of expectations.  I’ve found that most people seek praise of their manager and appropriate and targeted appreciation can do wonders for productivity.

Employees take cues from their boss.  Be energetic, focused, organized, and pleasant (until you need to be otherwise).  If you need them to perform a task at a certain speed or reach specific milestones then it is your responsibility to clearly communicate and measure progress.

For instance, on one of my farms I calculated that a string tying team should be able to tie and stake twine at 20 seconds per string.  In the morning with energy high they average 17 seconds so James is a happy boss.  If I left those assumptions stand I’d expect to hit certain milestones by day end.

After lunch thongs changed.  17 seconds became 25 seconds, and then 40 seconds.  Big deal, right?  Yes very big deal.  That stretch in efficiency represents a cost increase of $25/row to tie twine.  Multiplied by hundreds of rows and that money is suddenly greater than the budget for the entire task.

Happy Taskmaster

Like I mentioned above, employees typically want to do a good job.  They started strong but are lagging as the day evolves.  They’re not exhausted as this is not demanding work.  Time for a talk.

It’s easy to get frustrated and short but that’s not going to improve productivity.  I gathered the crew together and told them that for the first big day I thought everyone caught on well and the twine was just right.  But we’re slumping as the day goes on.  Why?

I asked their input and shared my observations.  We needed to swap jobs around to break up the monotony and stress how important focus is on such a simple task.  A five minute discussion got us back on track and 15 seconds was the time to beat.

Slaying Complacency

This is a tough monster to vanquish.  Ultimately it comes down to good management and appreciating efforts of everyone working.  There are times when the Complacency Vampire can morph into the Disgruntled Ogre but it’s our job to make sure we slay before it has a chance to wreck morale and crush enthusiasm.

To Coir or not to Coir

Few things seem to get hop growers worked up more than what they use to train their hops.  At the heart of the issue is mostly opinion but we should ask some hard questions about what we should be using for our yards.  

I thought long and hard about why we use coir twine in our operation when there are many other options.  It all came down what works best for our yard.

Tensile Strength

Tensile strength is a measure of how much force the “string” material can withstand safely or before failing.  Ratings are given in pounds-force (lbs/f) or in pounds per square inch (psi).
They are both similar BUT remember that is the rating is in PSI the number must be derated for the cross-section of the string.   See my post on PSI vs Lb-F for more info.

Material

Hop growers have 3 materials from which to choose when stringing the yard; natural fiber, synthetic fiber, metal wire.  Natural fibers are wide-ranging but most popular are coir (coconut fiber), sisal (grass), and twisted paper.  Hemp is also an option but in the US it is prohibitively expensive for large scale operations.  Synthetic fiber string is typically polypropylene baling twine but can include any polymer twine but price usually restricts their use.  Finally metal wire is a traditional material used in some European regions but is rapidly being replaced by natural fiber due to food safety issues.

Longevity

In the hop yard we need our string to last the season but then be compostable after harvest.  Not an easy task for sure but considering a few attributes can help with deciding on the right material for you.

Coir and sisal are both semi-resistant to single season rot and seasonal longevity is heavily dependent on the thickness of the strand.  All things being equal a string of the same diameter will have near equal rot resistance.  Coir fiber is approximately 60% less expensive than sisal so the thicker coir twine will have more fibers to sacrifice to microbes than the typically much thinner sisal.

And then there is paper.  A relative newcomer twister paper is not particularly rot resistant by itself.  It is used extensively in the Northwest US where growers soak the soil end of the twine in a mixture of diesel fuel and copper preservative to make it last the season.  It seems to serve the purpose for those growers although it is a bit more expensive than coir.  Manufactured domestically means shipping is less.

Metal wire and synthetics are also options but each cone with serious issues.  Metal wire is cheap but unless you’re willing to run it through your harvester and deal with magnetic separation then I’d stay away from it.

Some brewers will not accept hops grown on wire just because of the implied risk of contamination.  As a processor I will not accept bales that were strung on wire.  Synthetic twine as come a long way in the last decade.  Most of this twine is polypropylene and made for baling hay and straw.  It’s available in various strengths and quite inexpensive.

However consider what you have to deal with after harvest.  Our Wolf harvester chops up the bine and twine and a conveyor takes it outside.  Unless you buy the biodegradable poly twine you’ve got a big pile of uncompostable hop debris.

Fastening

Equally divisive is the topic of twine fastening.  Obviously tying twine at the top is standard but how about the bottom?

Some growers have a suspended drip line to which they tie the bottom of the twine.  Some growers have heavier soil so they can simply stab the twine into the soil.

On light soil a special metal clip is pressed into the ground along with the twine.  In some European yards the grower installs stakes at each plant and use continuous wire or sisal twine.

My Decision

I’m on Team Coir.  I have heavier soil so I fan jam the twine into the ground without using clips.  We tend to have regular rainfall and we drip irrigate so using lighter sisal twine is not an option.  It rots in weeks and I lose all stability and broken bines result.

Buying in volume drops the coir price to the point where other materials are nor competitive.  Poly twine is right out; even the biodegradable stuff.  It wraps around my harvester  chopper and melts into the bearings.  And something about soaking paper in diesel and putting it into the soil bothers me.

Your results may vary.

 

Penny Vampires in your Hop Business

Penny Vampires are those hidden costs that lurk in the shadowy barn corners and cobweby oasts that continue to bleed money from your operation penny by penny without your knowledge.  Well, not completely without your knowledge but they are easily disregarded or purposely ignored.  Hunting and staking these vampires can give back thousands of dollars and streamline our small scale farm operations.

This is the first post in a series that will help identify which vampire is causing trouble and how to defend or destroy the beast.

Time Suckers

These vampires are known to be bold and are unafraid of the light.  They stalk us in broad daylight sapping our time and efficiency seconds at a suck.  The fate of the victim is death by 1000 bites as it takes months and sometime years for the infection to become lethal.

Know the Time Sucker by its normally approachable demeanor usually taking the guise of someone who just has one quick question or wants a quick tour.  Another common species sneaks around placing ideas and tasks in your way that you may find appealing and distracting.

Defense against the Time Sucker

Fortunately we all carry a powerful weapon to slay the Time Sucker…the phone calendar.  Remember we are running businesses and that requires discipline.  Making a reoccurring schedule wards away the vampires and can even kill them.

I create various blocks of time for specific types of activities that I know reoccur weekly or biweekly.  Payroll and benefits, Accounts Receivable, paying bills, etc all need their own blocks of time.  These are non-negotiable (and not much fun either).

I’ve taken to blocking out half of friday to deal with fabrication and repair/maintenence.  Since these are fun for me it’s sort of like a Friday treat.  Granted, I don’t wait to fix something until Friday if I need it now but you get the idea.

I also block out time for customer follow-up and new customer contact.  These are rainy-day activities for me but I don’t go more than 3 weeks without doing them regardless.

Sneak Attack

Unscheduled visitors interrupt workflow and distract the entire team.  They are typically well meaning but must be defended against lest they become a regular occurance.  Does that man we need barbed wire and guard dogs?

Not usually.  The key to this Time Sucker is the word Unscheduled.  I firmly believe that people should engage their farmers but not unannounced.  How many visitors do you receive per week?  If it’s one or less (less than 4 per month) then a polite but firm “sorry, but we can’t take the time to chat right now” stance.  Most people get the picture.

If you find yourself receiving more than a couple per week I’d urge you to look at having farm tours once or twice a month during the growing season.  Do Not give them for free.  Even a minimal charge of $5 per person says something about the value of your time.  Charging much more than that without building out a full-fledged agritourism scheme is not likely going to work. But if you’re trying to turn people away without being a grumpy SOB then jack up the price.

 

Rebuttal to recent blog post regarding hop dormancy…the science

 

I’ll be brief with the introduction.  It has come to my attention that a popular blog regarding hop production recently posted an opinion piece passed off as science.  That’s the great things about the internet…no one can hold you accountable.

So I thought I’d use some SCIENCE and address the points, noting fact or opinion where necessary.  Take it as you will.

Hops require 6 weeks of dormancy below 38F

Notice that the author says “average” of 6 weeks below 38F. This is the “get out of jail free” card. In reality dormancy chilling is NOT measured in weeks, days, or months, but in hours at or below a standard temperature. Daily temperature fluctuations can far exceed an “average” temperature of 38F but the dormant crown can still accumulate chilling hours because there will be a time during the day that temps drop below 38F. Temperature also plays an important role in chilling requirements.

There are no published data (that this author could find) that equate chilling hours with hop vegetative vigor.

Dormancy isn’t an all-or-nothing situation if the temperature doesn’t hit or fluctuates around the baseline temperature. Also, anecdotal evidence suggests temps far below the baseline can accelerate chilling hours in some circumstances (accumulation of hours can be accelerated if the temp is at 0F opposed to 38F). For instance, hop growers from Select Botanical Group (breeders of Simcoe, etc, personal communication with Jason Perrault at the HGA conference 2016) find that force chilling to temps of 20F they achieve vernalization earlier than storing at 40F.

There is no standard temperature for hop dormancy. Saying 38F is the baseline requires evidence. A literature review using the University of Wisconsin-Madison Agriculture library returned zero research identifying baseline temperature for hop dormancy. Perhaps a better presentation by the author would be, “In our local Zeeland MI yard we have found that…” However to say that those who cannot achieve 38F will have vernalization issues is just plain false.

More important perhaps is asking what triggers dormancy in the first place? Hops begin to go dormant long before temperatures hit 38F. Plant dormancy and emergence is not governed by temperature (although it is a major factor). Photoperiod is the primary trigger for dormancy (well-known plant physiology fundamental, check any textbook). Why?

Because temperature is not constant. An early warm up could cause plants to wake up too early, break bud, and burn up carbohydrates only to get killed off when the temp drops again. This is not uncommon especially when the temperature spikes extremely high and the plants over-ride the photoperiod to break dormancy. But to initiate dormancy requires a photoperiod change. Place a plant into a cooler and drop the temperature and it will show cold stress but not dormancy. Put the same plant in a warmish environment and regulate the photoperiod and good night.

Dormancy is a chemical process that places the plant tissues in a state to either tolerate ice crystals forming within tissue or to avoid crystals altogether (tolerance vs avoidance, another well documented physiological phenomenon). Since the crown and rhizomes do not desiccate (avoidance) they must therefore tolerate.  A topic that this author studied in-depth as a graduate student.

One way to do that is to have a very woody structure and a very high carbohydrate content which is what we observe. Photoperiod drives hormone (we call them plant growth regulators) balance that tells the plant time to dry out the bine, drop the flowers, and get rid of excess water in the tissues and crank up carbohydrates for protection. At no stage is it required for a plant to freeze to go dormant.

Hop vernalization requirements vary by hop genotype and varieties

Hop varieties have evolved/been bred to exploit their niche, which necessarily includes adapting to their microclimate.

“…[they] require longer chilling periods may not properly reset back to the juvenile spring phase required to grow and produce a normal yield of cones.”

Dormancy DOES NOT set a plant back to ‘juvenile” phase. Buds that emerge in the current growing season are set the season prior. Dormancy is a survival strategy for perennials. It doesn’t roll back the maturity clock. Those buds are no less mature than they were the autumn before dormancy.

Perhaps what the author was reaching to describe was the idea that certain varieties seem to require different dormant periods to be vigorous. However the anecdote mentioned does not provide any information on crop age, care, crown condition, winter conditions, etc. There are many more variables that could account for uneven emergence and vigor.

For example, we receive plenty of chilling hours each winter in southern Wisconsin (400+ hours below 40F) and see very uniform emergence of our Centennial, Tettnanger, Willamette, and CTZ. However Chinook and Cascade are quite spotty. Why? Not due to chilling hours for sure. Turns out it was a micronutrient issue.

Cultivate early and often.

STRONGLY DISAGREE. Cultivating a hop yard early usually means cultivating wet soil when compaction and soil structure destruction is at its highest likelihood. The idea that incorporating diseased plant debris into the soil will reduce infection is also not accurate. To kill pathogens the debris must be heated to composting temperatures at least 3 times (research how to compost). Simply incorporating diseased material into the soil could only act to increase disease reservoirs.

AGREE that a single early cultivation to 12 inches with a chisel plow will sever roots and force the trunk roots to branch and form new rootlets through which hops take up nutrients. This is applicable to older hop yards (3 years and older). This is a well proven technique (Rybacek, 1991).

Drench disease susceptible hop varieties with a systemic fungicide early and at first shoot emergence. 

There is no evidence that a drench application if systemic fungicides like Ridomil are effective against hop disease. These products require active leaf photosynthesis and leaf surface area for absorption. Dormant and emerged crowns do not have the ability (or very limited ability) to take these compounds into their tissue. Also, Ridomil Gold is known to create resistance very quickly in other crops (potatoes and tomatoes in WI). This class of fungicide is a potent tool to help control downy mildew but should not be misused in a drench situation. While drench application is listed on the label I have serious reservations about using this compound in this manner.

Most downy spores are likely hidden within bud scales at emergence and therefore contact fungicides are a poor method for DM control (Gent et.al. Gevens et. al). For this reason the preferred method for DM control in the early season is to desiccate the first shoots that can be harboring the spores. If DM is known to be systemic in the yard mowing is not advised due to the potential for spreading the infection. Desiccation works well for us.

Powdery Mildew is something altogether different…

Applying Phosphites may be detrimental to hop plants

Journal of Plant Nutrition Volume 24Issue 10, 2001   PHOSPHITE (PHOSPHOROUS ACID): ITS RELEVANCE IN THE ENVIRONMENT AND AGRICULTURE AND INFLUENCE ON PLANT PHOSPHATE STARVATION RESPONSE

FALSE. The study shows that when phosphate is available in the soil the addition of phosphite does not cause a reduction in available phosphate. However it does show that when phosphate is at sub-optimal levels the plant can be fooled into thinking excess phosphite is a plant nutrient (which it isn’t). Once phosphate is added back to the soil the roots get confused and still think phosphite is what it wants. Very much abbreviated and simplified explanation.

While phosphorus is a critical plant nutrient most agricultural soils that have had manure applied will have more than enough P for hops. However new yards built on pasture, prairie (or golf courses) are a different story.

A foliar plant growth regulator (PGR) application of gibberellic acid can mimic the cold requirement

SORT OF…I believe it is inappropriate to say that GA3 mimics cold requirements for hop plants. Gibberellins are a complex group of plant growth regulators that have multiple functions in plants, such as flower initiation and internode elongation. Dwarf plants show a deficit in GA thus their short stature. Much research has been done on GA3 and seed dormancy and perhaps is where the author is obtaining this notion. Also there is mention of use of GA3 to help seed potatoes break dormancy. However there is no data that I can find that relate this GA3 activity to hop shoot uniformity during emergence.

In fact, most hop growers in the US avoid plant growth regulators because of the complex nature of hop growth. There was a suite of research in the early 90’s that looked at using GA to induce side arm development and increasing flower set. All data was either contrary or statistically insignificant. In some cases GA applications caused shorter side arms.

All of these observations are backed up by either well-known plant physiology or scientific articles from peer-reviewed journals, texts, and expert presentations.

The Dirty Secret about “Clean” Plants

scam-artist-300x280Psst!   Hey you…     Yeah you…     Word is you’re starting a hop yard.  Need some plants?  No worries!  These plants are primo.  Oh and they’re disease free, dude.  Honest!

It seems that recently anyone with a hoop house and some greenhouse experience is propagating and selling hop plants with the “clean” label.  That might seem like a good thing but in reality there is a big heap of confusion in the marketplace about what “clean” plants really are and where to find them.

Like the Rollex (not Rolex) and genuine Panaphonic stereo you can buy out of the back of a truck in Newark, the “clean” hop plant seems to have gained back-alley status.  What do all of these things have in common?

No Proof.

They also share similar performance.  That is to say they look good to start but after you’ve gotten comfortable with them they start to crap out and die and you’re buying more.  This is a little something we call Life-Cycle lie. Cheap up front but very costly in the long run.

Real Life

Gent_ApMV

Hop mosaic virus.  D. Gent

The recent explosion in small scale hop yards caused a shortage in the traditional rhizome stock from the Pacific Northwest.  Like all early adopters I purchased tens of thousands over a five year period with good results.  Then the blush wore off and we started seeing vigor issues and eventually plant death.  Viruses.

 

Live plants were the next logical step since they could be grown in controlled environments from known clean mother plants.  But as we dug into the available sources for live plants we found no documented controls in place to prevent virus and fungal transmission.  Uh oh.

So what makes a “clean” plant anyway?  Well, it all starts with disease-free plant material from which green cuttings are taken.  Cuttings can be super tiny from microscopic growing tips of bines and grown up on nutrient jello inside of test tubes.  This is called tissue culture or micropropagation.

micropropagation-adil-9-638

Mircopropagation

This is the lab method and arguably the most controlled and expensive method.  Not unusual for these plants to cost upwards of $8-$10/plant.

A more cost effective method is vegetative propagation.  A stem segment is cut from a clean mother plant and rooted in sterile media.  Eventually dormant buds break and form bines and voila you have a new plant.  This method takes place in a greenhouse and has more potential points of contamination than the lab but is cheaper, around $3-$4 per plant for bulk.

The Dirty Secret

Now for a bit of science.  Every time a person enters the greenhouse they can also transport plant diseases, usually by dirty footwear and grubby hands and tools.  Every time greenhouse vents open air is sucked in that can carry disease-causing critters and spores.  Unless you’re growing in a sterile chamber in an abandoned mine these risks cannot be avoided.

So how can someone claim “disease-free” plants if the plants are always at risk of infection?

The answer lies in HOW the greenhouse operates and what controls it uses to MINIMIZE risk.  Can you imagine a “clean” mother plant remaining clean for long under these conditions without proper care to minimize infection?  Not to mention testing and retesting to make sure mothers and daughters remain clean and infected siblings destroyed.

How Clean Plants SHOULD be Produced

greenhouse

Clean Chinook daughters in GVH bio-secure greenhouse

You’ll be spending thousands to tens-of-thousands of dollars on plants and you’d like some sort of guarantee that you’re plants are clean.  How much are you willing to spend?  Testing every plant for the main hop viruses and mildews costs approximately $4-$7 PER PLANT.  Not feasible for the wallet but no lab I know of is capable of processing half a million samples (you need replicates to be 100% confident).  So what do we do?

Use statistics

We test our daughter plants according to a statistical formula that gives us a certain level of confidence based on our operating guidelines that minimize contamination (called Good Manufacturing Processes, or GMP).  If we can trace our daughter plants to a specific time/date/horticulturist we can effectively contain any disease propagation.  This is called a growth cell.  If we get a positive test within a “cell” we can further test that cell or discard it altogether (typical practice).

How to Protect Yourself

  • When buying “clean” plants ask about how often the testing has found disease.
  • Ask if any plants have ever been recalled due to virus
  • Ask about what diseases are controlled for in the greenhouse.  For instance Downy Mildew testing looks for DNA but says nothing about whether or not the disease is alive in the plant.
  • Ask about bio-security in the greenhouse.  How does the facility control transmission by workers.  Is access restricted?  Are there foot baths, over-coats, gloves used?
  • Ask about how the grower determines the size of their growth cells and how they test.  What happens if a test comes back positive?
  • Most importantly…size of the growing operation IS NOT any guarantee of quality.  As in most things, the bigger the operation the more cost conscious it becomes.  Pinching pennies in the clean plant game is just bad.

The Last Word on Guarantees

To paraphrase my grand dad, “I can take a dump in a box and slap a guarantee on it but it is still a turd in a box.”  Same goes for guarantees in the plant world.  There is no such thing as a certified clean plant producer (although we’re working towards one).  Nor is there any standard regarding guaranteed clean plants.

The ugly truth is that as soon as the plant leaves the facility it is open to attack by Mother Nature.  I’ll post more on what to expect from “clean” plants shortly.  But for now exercise some vigilance and ignore the hyperbole.

For more information on Gorst Valley Hops clean plant availability please visit our website here

 

Captain Bringdown’s Top 5 Insane Reasons to NOT Start a Hop Farm

captain bringdownCaptain Bringdown here, bringing you the top 5 reoccurring colossally bad-insane reasons for wanting to start a hop farm.  As the truth slinging superhero of reality, I feel it is my duty to dish out truthy justice and call out the craziest of the crazies…so here we go!

  1.  I love craft beer!  I’m a huge craft beer geek and my entire life already revolves around beer.  My parents have some land and they’ll do the farming.

This is by far the most common insane reason we hear for wanting to start a hop yard.  Just because you love sports cars doesn’t mean you have the skills and resources to start an engine block foundry.  Isn’t it enough that you’re annoying as sh*t?  Stick to your beer festivals and drooling after brewers like rockstar groupies and leave the farming to the professionals.

A1More than likely you’re bored with your life in your parent’s basement, not trimming your beard and tired of World of Warcraft.  At best the activity around starting a hop yard is a distraction from your otherwise purposeless life.  Get a job.  Or a job that doesn’t require an orange smock.

       2.  I’m retiring and looking for something to do for a
second career.

When has agriculture EVER been a sound post-retirement investment strategy?  Good thing Warren is in Omaha or he’d smack the sh*t out of you.  warren-buffett-in-1964-i-made-a-monumentally-stupid-decision-over-0125Let’s see…hop farming is the most labor intensive, capital intensive, and risky project most people will every deal with and you think it’s a good idea as something to keep you busy in retirement?  Try gardening instead.  Build birdhouses.  If you must be involved with hops how about helping out at a nearby hop farm?  I know a guy named James who will work the crap outta ya.

        3.  I hear hops are worth a lot of money.  And since I have a lot of money and want more I’ll start a hop farm.

stock-illustration-7262892-cartoon-fat-cat-sitting-on-pile-of-cashNewsflash, Moneybags…besides cocaine and marijuana when has farming EVER printed money?  Yeah, hops can return waaaay more than corn and cows but they cost way more to grow too.  Hop farming isn’t like making widgets or selling furniture.  First you gotta grow them and that’s no small feat.  Then you gotta convince brewers you know what you’re doing.  Then you have to go it all over again next year all while battling Mother Nature who, by the way, is psycho.  Good luck.

        4.  I’ve researched a few websites and everyone is doing it wrong.  This is how you do it…

Stand back citizens!  It’s my old nemesis, Dr. Know-It-All!  know-it-allIf you’re not sure what he looks like he is typically the guy in the back of the room with his chest puffed out, arms folded, smirking, and muttering to himself.  Dr. Know-It-All tends to be poisonous to those around him, oozing contempt for anyone who threatens to reveal his true nature.  Oftentimes he will offer his “input” as fact while gloating in his self-satisfaction.  Be warned…the Dr. is known to make sh*t up to sound intelligent or to support his insanity.  The best defense against Dr. Know-It-All is asking for data when he blabs his mouth or even better, saying “Why don’t you try it first.”

        5.  We think growing hops would be a good family activity.  We can use the income to fund college tuition.

homer616Umm…ok.  If you want your kids and  spouse (usually wife) to resent you more then I say give it a shot.  One of two things will happen:  You’ll build a trellis and spend gobs of money only to look at it as a monument to your failure or you’ll tear it down and hear about it for the rest of your life.  So why don’t you just give your money to Captain Bringdown and I’ll punch you in the throat.  Much less humiliating and still painful to remind you of your poor reasoning skills.