Local hops a cash crop for farmers, best ingredient for brewers

COLUMBIANA, Ohio (WYTV) – A new cash crop has farmers seeing green. Hops are growing for the first time in the Valley.

Jared Channell used the locally grown hops in the vats at Birdfish Brewing Company for the first time this year. He says you can taste the difference in the brew.

“You get the fresh hops, and it’s a little more green tasting. It’s a lot fresher. I don’t know how to say it, but it’s my favorite beer of the year,” Channell said.

Those hops grow at Lamppost Farm where Steve Montgomery also raises his pigs and cattle. He says the craft beer industry has opened up a new crop for farming. Demand has been growing across America, and the number of acres where hops are grown has more than doubled in the last five years. Montgomery said the Mahoning Valley is well suited to the crop.

“Good soil, good climate. They took a while to establish, but once they get established, they’re growing really well,” Montgomery said.

The plants grow to 25 feet tall, and then they have to be harvested by hand. That’s where the Hop Harvest Festival comes in. The community helps strip the plants bare.

“We pick them and then we brew that beer the next day. You have to use them within 24 hours or they start to lose the oils and acids in them,” Channell said.

Three- Mile IPA was one selection brewed with the fresh hops. Channell couldn’t keep enough on the shelves and it sold out in just one day.

Channell says more acres are being planted the Valley, and he’ll buy as many local hops as he can get.