Tag Archives: nugget

Meet Huguenot Hops (Again)

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Last year, we posted a story about Huguenot Hops in Chesterfield County, run by business partners Devon Kistler and Kurt Stanfield. Click on the original story here to read about the background of this operation and learn more about how hops are grown.

IMG_1346 (683x1024)Virginia may not top the charts as a hops-producing state, but a rising number of growers have kick-started a movement to increase the availability of locally-grown hops to the burgeoning craft beer industry. Huguenot Hops is a trailblazer in this effort, expanding in size this spring to become one of the largest hop yards in the region. With the increased acreage comes more trellises to build, more bines to train, more weeds to control, and more cones to pick, but Devon and Kurt are committed to their work and passionate about quality.

We visited the operation recently to see the yard expansion and compare the upcoming harvest to what we saw in 2013.

How much has your operation expanded since we first visited you in 2013?
Last year we had 70 plants. This year we have 1200 plants on 1.25 acres. Our plan is to expand to 2600 plants on 3 acres in the next couple of years.

Which varieties of hops are you growing?
Last year was just Cascade. This year we added Nugget and Zeus. We plan to add more varieties in 2015.

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How is the 2014 hops season going so far?
Because of the weather, the second year plants were ready for harvest a month earlier than we expected. However, we were able to sell the hops to Alewerks. Also, we have learned how to combat Japanese Beetles and two-spotted spider mites.

Did you learn anything from 2013 that motivated you to make changes going into this 2014 season?
Yes! We have a completely new trellis system and automated drip irrigation system. Also, there are fewer rows in between poles. One of the more significant improvements was running liquid fertilizer through the drip irrigation … fertigation rocks!

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IMG_1339 (1024x683)Any there any new practices you are trying in 2014?
We did hops testing last year and are continuing that practice this year. Same with soil testing. Although we had soil testing completed by another entity we also had some done at VT. As I said before, fertigation rocks! We still need to better understand quantities to put down.

What is your outlook on your grower organization, Old Dominion Hops Cooperative, and the Virginia industry as a whole?
The Co-Op is gaining a lot of participation from new farmers and combining forces with hop growers in North Carolina. We expect there will be more changes in the Co-Op in the next year as new leadership is elected and groups are created to support specific functions of the Co-Op. I think brewers are a lot more aware of Virginia-grown hops than they were a year ago and they are willing to come out to farms and eventually buy local hops. However, the door is not going to open a lot more for sales of local hops until we have the ability to pelletize and professionally package hops at a location that is central to the majority of hop growers.

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Devon Kistler holds a rhizome he pulled up from one of his plants. Left to their own devices, hops spread through the underground growth of rhizomes, and some industry suppliers collect and sell high-quality rhizomes that can be used to start a new yard or add more plants to an existing one.

What has been your biggest challenge so far in this business?
Time spent weeding 1.25 acres. However, Kurt has a new system with a flamethrower and weed eater that could be our golden ticket.

Do you have any successes you’d like to share?
With some help from David at Piedmont Hops we have clippings from this spring that are currently 10 feet tall and producing burrs. This really helps expand the yard and helps keep costs down. Also, the early sale of 50 pounds to Alewerks is a pretty nice success.

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This burr will mature into a cone, the flower of the female hop plant that is used to flavor beer.


IMG_1328 (1024x683)In addition to working with Alewerks and Hardywood, Devon and Kurt have literally brought their hops to the table, providing early-spring shoots from their plants to The Tobacco Company Restaurant in Richmond for a dish made with espresso-rubbed veal and allagash white ale cream. Furthermore, Huguenot Hops was recently featured in “The Beer Guy” column in the Richmond Times-Dispatch. Devon and Kurt will also make an appearance in an upcoming documentary about the brewing industry, From Grain to Growler, alongside several fellow growers.

IMG_1320 (683x1024)Huguenot Hops utilizes the support and resources offered by Virginia Cooperative Extension and their county agricultural agent in Chesterfield, Mike Likins. Although North Carolina State University is the regional leader in hops research, Extension resources for Virginia hops growers are expanding. The soil testing lab at Virginia Tech now has a crop code for hops so that growers can get accurate fertilizer recommendations for their yards, and the university has also initiated a hops testing service that will facilitate hop marketing and inform brewers about the levels of alpha acids and other compounds in their purchased hop cones. Virginia Cooperative Extension’s county agricultural agents work with Kurt, Devon, and other growers around the state with insect and disease identification, pest control recommendations, and crop management recommendations.

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Additional Resource for Readers:
Huguenot Hops Webpage
Huguenot Hops Facebook page
Old Dominion Hops Cooperative
North Carolina Hops Project
The Beer Guy article in the Times-Dispatch about Virginia hops
From Grain to Growler Documentary
Virginia Cooperative Extension – Chesterfield County (find your local office and agents here)

Meet Huguenot Hops.

100_0899 (1024x768)The Midlothian yard is owned and operated by Kurt Stanfield and his business partner Devon Kistler. 2013 was their first year growing hops as a commercial venture, but the results have been good and they have begun to increase the size of the yard and set up new plots for the upcoming season. Kurt and Devon work alongside fellow growers in the state and members of the Old Dominion Hops Cooperative who enjoy swapping ideas, networking with brewers, and helping one another at harvest time.  

100_0903 (1024x768)This year, Huguenot Hops grew the Cascade variety, which appeared to make it through the wet, humid summer unscathed by problems like downy mildew that can sometimes haunt hops in Virginia and North Carolina. Perhaps that is due in part to the yard’s unique trellis design. Rather than training the hops to grow in parallel vertical lines, Kurt and Devon arranged them in an open V-shape and spaced them to allow for plenty of airflow. They train each bine to grow clockwise up the twine towards the top of the trellis. However, they are still perfecting their support system design and have plans to make some adjustments to the cables and poles in the new plots that will be used to grow the Nugget and Zeus varieties next year.

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Kurt and Devon are planning to take soil tests on the existing yard and the new ground so that they can amend the soil pH and nutrient levels accordingly. Like any crop, hops need sufficient levels of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium to remain productive. The yard is also working on perfecting their weed control system using ground covers like mulch and cloth. In addition to suppressing weeds, covers like mulch help the soil retain its moisture. Moisture control is critical in hops, and during most summers the plants require irrigation to supplement rainfall.

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Hops growers can start yards with rhizomes, cuttings, and field-ready plants from other growers. The hops grow each year out of the crown at the soil level. In order to ensure that only the best bines grow up on the trellis, Kurt and Devon cut the regrowth several times early in the season. This helps remove any shoots that may carry certain diseases and eliminates any possible “bull shoots,” or shoots that are not ultimately productive.

100_0908 - Copy (1024x768)Kurt and Devon hope to harvest one and a half to two pounds of hops per year from each plant that has been growing for two or three years. Because hand-harvest of a sizeable yard requires ladders, lots of time, and a small army of volunteers, they are considering the possibility of turning to a mechanical harvester that strips the cones off the bines. What else does the future hold for Huguenot Hops? Some new practices and improved trellises seem to be in the cards, and if all goes well, plenty of local hops will make their way into Virginia brews in the coming years.

100_0906 (1024x768)Additional Resources for Readers:

North Carolina Hops Project

Huguenot Hops Webpage

Old Dominion Hops Cooperative Webpage

Meet David Goode.

100_0874 (1024x768)He operates Piedmont Hops, LLC in Mosely along with Steve Brown, who runs the other part of the business at a site located in North Carolina.

David and Steve began growing hops for their personal use a few years ago, but the project quickly grew. Today, they supply hops to breweries who strive to include more locally-grown products in their craft beers.

100_0889 (1024x768)Growing hops in central Virginia has its challenges. Most varieties are designed to provide maximum yields under the day lengths, temperatures, and growing conditions of the states in the Pacific Northwest, where most of the hops production in the U.S. occurs. Why are there so few hops growers in Virginia? For one, growers in this area must select varieties that are better suited to Piedmont weather, soils, and growing conditions. Furthermore, the warm, humid summers in Virginia can be particularly conducive to the growth of certain diseases that prey on hops. For these reasons, David and other growers have turned to help from the North Carolina Hops project, an effort run by North Carolina State University faculty and specialists. Research data from this project helps Virginia and North Carolina growers choose varieties and growing practices that suit this region. If the market for local hops grows in Virginia, plant breeders may be able to make more progress towards developing varieties that suit local needs and resist local diseases. 100_0892 (1024x768)

David has enjoyed trying different varieties. This year, he had Cascade, Chinook, and Nugget. Next year, he plans to add a few more varieties and increase the total number of plants in the Virginia and North Carolina yards. His hops grow on bines—not to be confused with vines—that climb up strings supported by wires and cedar posts. New and aspiring hops growers may find that these trellis components are responsible for a large percentage of the input costs for starting a yard. Furthermore, growers need materials like drip tape for irrigation and weed cloth to start a yard. Labor is also a costly input, as it can take an hour or more to harvest one pound of hops by hand. Harvest typically occurs in late summer, although certain varieties differ. During the spring and summer, growers will spend a considerable amount of time working on weed control, training hops to climb the lines, and repairing any broken supports.

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Despite the challenges, hops production has been a worthwhile venture for David. He has had the rewarding experience of watching his hops go from the farm to the consumer. Furthermore, as is true in most business ventures, David has found networking with others to be a valuable use of his time. He has helped other growers with their yards, and in turn, growers have visited his farm to harvest hops and swap ideas. 100_0894 (1024x768)

What is next for Piedmont Hops? David is thinking of ways to address the labor requirements that come with an increase in acreage, and he is looking into some ideas for preventing and controlling any fungal diseases that may show up in the future. His work and the work of his colleagues may help turn hops from an impossible challenge for Virginia growers to a successful venture for those who are willing to learn and adapt. 100_0895 (1024x768)100_0883 (1024x768)Additional Resources for Readers:

North Carolina Hops Project

Piedmont Hops Webpage

Old Dominion Hops Cooperative Webpage