ORGANARCHY HOPS: CERTIFIED ORGANIC
Posted on June 27, 2015 by Bryce Merlene
With all of the new breweries popping up around the country, fresh organic hops are a hot commodity. On Tap Magazine had the chance to catch up with hop grower Solomon Rose, founder of Organarchy Hops and CEO of Lucketts Mill & HopWorks.
Organarchy Hops has specialized in organic hops and hop farming supplies for the Mid-Atlantic since 2011. Rose traces his interest in beer back to when he was a hunting guide in Texas: “I was drinking a lot of craft beer at a local bar that had 50 taps.” Around that time he first heard about hop farming. “One of my buddies was interning on an organic hop farm, Rising Sun Farms, in Colorado,” notes Rose. “He was the first USDA-certified organic hop grower in Colorado.” Soon after, he received a phone call that his family farm in Maryland was being sold. Once he visited his friend and checked out the farm, Rose decided to start growing his own hops back in Maryland.
“We started out with a one-acre yard to see if we could handle it and planned to go from there, if we liked it.” It became the first USDA-certified organic hop farm in the state of Maryland and quickly grew to 14 acres. Rose is currently working on expanding the hop business into Virginia with Black Hops Farm, a massive hop farm and processing facility in alliance with Lucketts Mill & Hopworks.
According to Rose, the most expensive part about growing hops is picking and drying them correctly. The processing facility is the Mid-Atlantic region’s first commercial-scale hop processing facility. It has a pelletizing line and a wolf picker, a massive hop-harvesting machine. These tools will ensure that the hops, whether they are dry, wet or in pellets, are processed properly every time and are exactly what the brewer wants. Rose emphasized the importance of quality control: “Most brewers prefer to buy local, but if they are paying a premium and not getting something good in return, they will go elsewhere.”
As far as successful hop varietals grown in the area, Rose said they have had good luck with Cascade, Centennial, Chinook and Crystal, but they are always searching for the next big hop. He is working with Virginia Tech and Virginia State University to test hop varietals at their campuses. The focus is on gaining knowledge and compiling data to see what hops thrive in this area and what issues arise. Rose is curious to see how certain hops will react to our temperature. “Our climate is warmer than Michigan and out west,” Rose says. “The smells and aromas of Cascade hops grown in Virginia are going to be different from ones grown in California.” Much like wine grapes imparting different characteristics based on soil and climate, hops change from region to region. “The soil at Lucketts was great; it had been farmed for a long time. Grapes and hops are perennials and they really help the soil.”
Solomon Rose, founder of Organarchy Hops and CEO of Lucketts Mill & HopWorks
For now, Rose is focused on the hop-processing, using their expanded acreage and gathering new information about hops. “We work with a fun and inspiring group of people from brewers to growers. It’s fun and rewarding to mesh these projects together.” In the past, Organarchy has supplied Atlas with wet hops and worked with Heavy Seas on a small batch wet-hopped beer. “As we work with these guys, we can ask about characteristics that come through from the hops and decide where to go from there.”
Rose is confident that hop farming will not only benefit Virginia’s economy, but also increase demand and draw more hop growers and brewers to the area. Lucketts Mill will additionally provide valuable resources to small-scale hop-growers that would otherwise struggle with the high cost of machinery. Virginia has quickly become a wine destination; hopefully, it will soon become a hop destination as well.
One of the major differences between a brewery and a winery is that many breweries do not grow their own ingredients; instead they purchase the yeast, hops and grain from third-party suppliers. There are, however, several brewers that are returning to the farmstead and harvesting their own ingredients. The results are impressive: beers that taste like the regions from which they are created. For more information on Organarchy visit www.organarchyhops.com. For more information on Lucketts Mill & HopWorks and the soon to be Black Hops Farm visit www.blackhopsfarm.com.