Virginia isn’t just talking about growing hops — it wants to be the East Coast answer to the Pacific Northwest. The state is incentivizing growers and is now also playing host to the 2016 South Atlantic Hops Conference to be held March 4-5 in Richmond at the Clarion Hotel Richmond Central.
This year’s expanded conference is a collaboration of faculty from Virginia Tech, North Carolina State University, Virginia Cooperative Extension, Virginia State University and grower members of Old Dominion Hops Cooperative.
The event is a prime opportunity for beginner and experienced hop growers alike to learn and network. Associated industry stakeholders are also encouraged to attend. Registration and tickets for the event can be found on the conference’s website.
This two-day gathering of hops enthusiasts will kick off March 4 with tours of local hop yards followed by visits to several area breweries. March 5 will be devoted to educational programming where trending topics about growing, marketing and processing hops will be the focus of presentations, panels and a trade show.
With more than 100 craft breweries, Virginia is quickly emerging as a significant player in the East Coast beer scene. Membership in the Old Dominion Hops Cooperative has grown from about 20 members to more than 180 over the past few years.
The burgeoning craft beer industry supports more than 8,000 jobs in the commonwealth and has a $623 million economic impact on the state, according to the Virginia Craft Brewers Guild. The university is currently conducting two hop-related studies — one examines brewing with hops in the Department of Food Science and Technology, and the other studies the crop itself.
Holly Scoggins, associate professor of horticulture, is leading the hops production research program. An experimental hopyard was constructed at the Urban Horticulture Center with grant funding from the Virginia Agricultural Council and the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Scoggins is hoping to determine which hop varieties are best-suited to Virginia’s shorter summer days and most resistant to Mid-Atlantic diseases and pests. Laura Siegle, extension agent for Amelia County, has been working with growers in the state for the past few years and has authored and co-authored several publications on various aspects of production. More information about growing hops in the commonwealth can be found at this Extension website.