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Hops Exchange Links Producers With Brewers
The booming craft-brewing industry in the U.S. has fueled high interest in raising hops, particularly by small-scale farmers and home-brewing aficionados.
  While New York, Oregon and Washington lead the nation in hops production, Wisconsin has a long tradition of growing hops. Nearly 150 years ago, the decade starting in 1860 became known as the “Wisconsin Hop Craze.” By 1867, Wisconsin farmers – many of them German immigrants and former Civil War soldiers – produced 11 million pounds of hops, including 4 million pounds from Sauk County alone. Kilbourn City, which is now Wisconsin Dells, was the processing hub. By 1880 Wisconsin’s hop production had dropped by 80 percent and continued downward as livestock farming increased. Production moved to New York.
  More than a century later, Wisconsin is making a hops comeback, thanks in part to the Wisconsin Hop Exchange (WHEx). The Exchange is a cooperative that supplies breweries with the hops needed to brew some of Wisconsin’s best craft beers. Dave Buss of Waterloo, who’s served on the Exchange Board, says Wisconsin hops are in demand because of their unique taste and character. About 100 producers currently grow hops in Wisconsin. Some sell through the Exchange and others have direct contracts with brewers. Buss says the state’s fertile soil, excellent growing conditions and ample moisture are ideal for hop production.
  The Exchange helps growers by selling hops for planting, pelletizing baled hops, marketing hops to breweries, bulk purchasing supplies, hosting agronomic workshops and providing information to new growers. Buss hosted a grower workshop on his hop farm in 2015 and explained growing, harvesting, drying and handling to a large group in attendance. He says another way the Exchange adds value is by identifying the variety and the grower on each package they sell so buyers can request that grower in the future.
  The WHEx website includes detailed descriptions of 18 popular hops varieties, describing the acid and oil content, flavor, storage stability, maturity and types of beers the varieties are best suited for. Brewers can purchase hops via the website in 10-lb. increments. WHEx hops are pelletized and vacuum sealed in oxygen-barrier 10-lb. bags.
   Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Wisconsin Hop Exchange website: coop.wisconsinhopexchange.com.

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2016 - Volume #40, Issue #2