Supporting a market for Iowa hops
by Christa Hartsook, program coordinator
Hops are still a relatively new crop in the Midwest. The proliferation of craft breweries around Iowa fuels the recent interest and growth in hops production. Iowa now boasts 99 craft breweries with an economic impact of more than $100 million annually.*
Unfortunately, growers face challenges in marketing locally grown hops. Most of the hop yards in Iowa are small and geographically scattered. And growers are new to both the production of hops and marketing of hops to the public. The last ag census showed only 60 acres of hops grown in Iowa in 2017. But industry groups predict that production will grow rapidly over the next few years.
Grant supports ISU research
ISU’s horticulture department won an Iowa Specialty Crop Block Grant in 2019 to help increase awareness of Iowa-grown hops. Hops grown here differ in some ways from those grown in the Pacific Northwest, the traditional US growing region. To address this, grant funds will pay for lab analysis on Iowa hops and Pacific Northwest hops.
These analyses will help educate brewers on similarities and differences between the two geographies. When brewers have accurate sensory information, they will be able to adjust their product during processing to maximize quality.
ISU Extension and Outreach will host field days to show brewers, home brewers, and the public the quality of hops Iowa can produce. Attendees will learn about the cultivation process and variety selection, and have a hands-on connection to hops. Watch for more information on 2020 dates and locations.
More learning opportunities
Keri Byrum of Cedar Falls Hops Company is holding educational presentations around the state on “Growing Hops in Iowa” now through April. These presentations cover the history of hops, cultivation needs, harvesting details, and an overview of the Iowa hops industry.
For more information on the production of hops, please see these resources in the ISU Extension and Outreach Store.