Grand Haven Tribune: Local hops spice up craft beer scene

Local hops spice up craft beer scene

Marie Havenga • Jun 1, 2018 at 3:00 PM

If you're drinking local craft beer, why not savor some local hops?

Grand Armory and Odd Side Ales both use local hops in some of their selections.

Ben Tabor, co-owner of Grand Armory Brewing, 17 S. Second St. in downtown Grand Haven, said he and the pub’s staff members attend harvest day each fall at Chittenden Family Farm in Spring Lake.

“We definitely like supporting our West Michigan hop growers,” Tabor said. “We, like a lot of breweries, use a local hop brokerage company that has contacts with local hop farms.”

West Michigan is a prime grow area for Cascades, Chinook and Centennial hop varieties.

“Copper hops are the ones we kind of covet,” Tabor said. “Our beer we do every year is done exclusively with Michigan copper hops.”

Their Tied Down to Michigan brew is an IPA made with 100 percent copper hops grown at Chittenden Farms.

Tabor said he always looks forward to harvest day at the farm.

“You show up early in the morning — everything is covered in dew,” he said. “You watch the hop vines being cut down and they fall into a trailer. Within a matter of hours, we are brewing that beer with those wet hops. We plan beer recipes around local hops.”

Tabor said the craft beer industry is a tight-knit community, with close ties to local hop farmers.

“Buying local hops has a direct impact on our local economy and West Michigan's beer industry,” he said. “We are proud to support local Michigan farmers.”

Odd Side Ales, 41 Washington Ave. in downtown Grand Haven, uses hops from a farm in Empire, owned by former Grand Haven Area Public Schools communications director Ann Haruki for an IPA called Willenium.

“It adds to that tight-knit element that everyone loves about the industry,” said Reed Warber, Odd Side’s tap room manager. “A lot of wineries are abandoning their grape fields to make way for hops instead of grapes.”

Price becomes a factor, though.

Odd Side produces about 8,000 barrels a year, which equates to 100,000 gallons of beer.

“Buying local is great and we love to do it, but we have to make sure the price is right on,” Warber said.

Josh Gordon, Odd Side’s production manager, said he chooses local hops by putting them in hot water to form a tea-like substance. Then, he has a sense of the aroma and what the hops will add to a brew.

“There's a whole lot of state pride involved for craft beer enthusiasts,” Gordon said. “The Wellenium is a nice 7.5 percent IPA. It has a nice wheat/malt backbone to give it extra body and flavor.”

Gordon said the craft beer industry has hopped up many businesses.

“There are so many agricultural and small businesses doing very well because of it right now,” he said. “The success of Michigan breweries leads to the success and need for hop farmers. It all helps the craft beer economy and the Michigan economy.”

Correction: Ann Haruki’s hop farm, Craker Hill Farm in Omena, not Empire. The farm is co-owned by her boyfriend, Bradley Rose.

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