By: Brad Bergefurd, Extension Horticulture Specialist
Ohio Craft Brewers asked Brad Bergefurd if farmers in Ohio grew hops as they were seeking local suppliers of fresh hops to expand the diversity of locally produced brews using Ohio hops. These new brews include high value Wet-hopped harvest ales never produced in the past. Seeing this agriculture opportunity for Ohio, as a project PI and co-PI, Horticulture Extension Specialist Brad Bergefurd acquired Ohio Department of Agriculture and USDA Specialty Crop Block grant funding partnering with faculty in the Departments of Entomology and Plant Pathology to develop an Ohio hops education and research program, “Hop Production to Enhance Economic Opportunities for Ohio Farmers & Brewers”. The project allowed the OSU South Centers Specialty Crops Team to conduct field research and educational programming and three locations throughout Ohio.
Partnering with 14 County Ag/NR Educators, Bergefurd and the Specialty Crops Team have taught over 2,000 landowners at regional programs and authored 5 technical reports and fact sheets on the potential of growing hops as a specialty crop for Ohio’s $13.2 billion craft brewing industry. Working with the USDA Cooperative Development Center to form a hop growers association (Ohio Hop Growers Guild, OHGG.org).
As of fall 2017, 72 Ohio farmers report having planted about200 acres of hops, up from 4 acres in 2011, with an estimated annual farm gate crop sales value of $10 million. With this new local Ohio hop supply, Ohio breweries have begun using Ohio grown hops to produce a high-valued seasonal Wet-hopped Harvest Ale using wet hop cones delivered to Ohio breweries within hours of being picked by local hop growers. Harvest ales are an impossibly aromatic and bright IPA brew bursting with fresh pine, melon and citrus notes. Fresh hops are a high value specialty crop which demands a price premium 4x dried hop market value. Ohio brewers are now producing fresh-hopped Ohio ales using locally grown hops with an annual estimated retail value of over $5 million.