WOW!!! A Hops Farm and Brewery for tours and tastings and fun!
WESTTOWN — Out here, where rolling hills fade into the flat expanse of the famous Black Dirt region, sod, onions and corn are familiar crops.
Richard Coleman, though, has a different idea.
He expected to inspire a bit of curiosity last weekend, when folks got their first look at five dozen, 22-foot-tall poles going up on his one-acre field.
That’s one of the first steps in Coleman’s foray into hops farming, which he plans to parlay into the establishment of a farm brewery at a scenic lookout above the field.
First crop likely later this year
Hops need those poles because the vines climb 18 feet into the sky. “Every 50 feet, you put a pole,” Coleman explained. “Then you run a heavy-gauge wire across the top, and from that, a coconut skin twine to the ground. You then train the hops to go up.”
An 8-foot-tall fence will surround the field to protect the seedlings from nibbling deer.
“It’s in the first growing stage when deer are a threat, but after that the plants grow bitter,” Coleman said. “Hops add aroma and bitterness to the beer. What it adds to beer is what deer don’t like.”
He’s depending on the farming experience of a business partner, Walter Doty, to produce the crop, as well as participation in the Atlantic Hops grower program.
Atlantic Hops is a Larchmont-based processor that provides technical assistance to growers in return for their using the company as their processor.
The first crop, which will be harvested in September and October, is likely to be small — about 500 pounds. The yield can triple within a few years.
Coleman, 36, a food-service broker, lives next to the field with his wife, Amanda. They moved there about five years ago from Jersey City, N.J., with a plan to start a vineyard. It was while researching that endeavor that Coleman, a longtime home-brewer, discovered the potential for growing hops.
The idea that New York was one of the biggest producers of hops before Prohibition piqued his interest.
Industry supports 60,000 NY jobs
Late last year, Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., launched the “I Love NY Brew” campaign to boost the cause of local brewers. The growing craft-brewing industry supports about 60,000 jobs in the state, Schumer said.
The popularity of locally produced wines and beers was evident when the category took first place in the alcohol and cocktails category of the National Restaurant Association’s “What’s Hot in 2012” survey.
Coleman hopes that Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s bill to create a farm-brewery license wins legislative support. It would allow his business plan to include tastings at his brewery and the sale of beer-making supplies. Farm breweries could also sell New York state-labeled wine at their shops.
Coleman acknowledged that his family and friends were initially less than enthusiastic about the farm-brewery idea. That was a few years ago, before the terms locavore, locally sourced and farm-to-table made their way into everyday conversations.
“Now, they think it’s a great idea,” Coleman said of his plan, which he calls part of the farm-to-glass movement.