News of small scale hops growing projects have sprouted up across the country, but none before have laid claim to the throne of hops quite like Heather Darby, a Ph.D. agronomist and soil scientist for the University of Vermont Extension. She is leading a team in an effort to find and grow varieties of hops in Vermont. It is called the Vermont Hops Project, and its appeal has grown over the past four years as craft beers have risen to beer royalty.
The Waterbury Record crowned Darby as the queen of hops and profiled her quest to cultivate home grown hops. The past four years have brought some fruitful findings to the Vermont Hops Project, which most recently published an interesting and extensive look at hops growing trials in its 2012 Organic Hop Variety Trial: Results from Year Two this past February. The project’s hard work has stirred up interest.
From the Waterbury Record:
These days, though, it’s hops growing that leaves her “constantly bombarded with questions” and draws most of the attention. “Sometimes,” she says with a laugh, “I think it gets too much attention. But then, she says, what else would you expect “with anything that involves beer.”
The Hops Project is challenging because it is starting almost from scratch: There’s no “manual” for growing Vermont hops. For all their vigor as they climb to produce the female flowers — like little pine cones — that are added in the brewing process, hops are susceptible to myriad diseases and bugs, finicky about soil conditions and climate, and fragile despite their size. But they were grown in Vermont in the 1800s, as documented by Adam Krakowski for the Vermont Historical Society in his book, “A Bitter Past: Hop Farming in the 19th Century.”
The Vermont Hops Project at the University of Vermont has produced an abundance of hops growing resources. Be sure to check out the site for more videos like the one above, as well as excellent research materials and growing tips. For the full profile on Darby, head over to the Waterbury Record.