Growing Barley and Hops For Local Beer-making

By: Brad Bergefurd, MS, Horticulture Specialist and Extension Educator
 
Statewide interest in purchasing local malting barley and hops by Ohio brewers has Ohio State University moving ahead with research on these crops. Ohio commercial beer manufacturers and craft brewers send millions of dollars out of Ohio annually by purchasing hops and malting barley from West Coast farmers. To help keep some of that economic activity within the state, the Ohio State University has developed a hop and malting barley research and education program focused on production and marketing. 
 
Agricultural statistics records indicate that in 1871, barley was planted on 81,000 acres in Ohio, producing approximately two million bushels total. Today, barley production ranks well below other small grains in Ohio with only 6,000 acres planted in 2014 compared to 620,000 acres of wheat planted. Most of the barley grain cultivated today is a six-row feed winter barley variety used for livestock feed on-farm or sold at local elevators. Of the 6,000 acres of barley, less than 100 are estimated to be of the malting barley variety in demand by craft brewers. 
 
In the 2008–2009 growing season, Dr. Eric Stockinger of the Ohio State University Horticulture and Crop Science Department began growing and testing cultivation of malting type barleys at the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC) in Wooster and throughout northern Ohio. In 2013, Brad Bergefurd, OSU Extension Educator and Horticulture Specialist, partnered with Stockinger and began evaluating malting barley in southern Ohio at the Piketon Research and Extension Center, exploring both fall- and spring-planted varieties. 
The hop and malting barley projects are allowing Ohio State researchers and educators to develop sustainable production practices directly related to Ohio growing conditions. Data collected from the field research trials allows us to educate growers about production, pest management practices, and marketing strategies to help them generate farm profits from these highly sought after crops. The research is evaluating new cultivars, innovative production techniques, insect and disease control methods, harvesting, processing, and marketing techniques that can be adopted by Ohio farmers.  The research will allow Ohio’s beer brewers to spend their money in Ohio by purchasing Ohio-grown hops and malting barley and ultimately help create Ohio jobs, allowing Ohio growers to diversify into a high-value specialty crop. Preliminary research results indicate hops and malting barley can be grown throughout Ohio and are adaptable to most Ohio soil types. 
 
There is an ever-increasing Ohio market for hops and malting barley with the expanding craft brewing industry. The Ohio Department of Liquor Control has been seeing continued interest in applications for alcohol-manufacturing permits, a trend that continues into 2015. Hops and malting barley are main ingredients in beer manufacturing, and are highly sought after by local craft and home brewers. The majority of hops and malting barley are sold on the open market, with the northwest United States supplying the majority of U.S. hops. Currently, Ohio has an estimated 100 acres of hops and 100 acres of malting barley being grown on small acreage. 
 
If you are interested in learning more about the hop and malting barley research that is being conducted by the Ohio State University, there are several upcoming educational opportunities. We are holding tours the first Fridays of August, September, October and November at Piketon and Wooster to view the hops and barley field trials. We also will be holding a Hops Field Night at Wooster, Ohio on Thursday, July 23 and a Hops Field Night at Piketon, Ohio on Tuesday, July 30. Registration is required for both field night events and the first Friday tours. Interested parties must register by calling McGlothin at 740-289-2071, ext. 132, or by emailing her at mcglothin.4@osu.edu. You can also visit our Ohio Hops Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/OhioHops or the OSU South Centers website http://southcenters.osu.edu/horticulture/other-specialties/hops for more information. If you would like to be added to the  Ohio Hops email list serve to  receive Ohio hop updates and information, contact Brad Bergefurd, Bergefurd.1@osu.edu or call the OSU South Centers 1-800-860-7232 or 740-289-2071 ext. 132.