Sheep on our farm

This summer we hosted six sheep on our farm for about ten days. The results were interesting, and the experience was worth while. There are some logistically hurdles before we are ready to scale this effort up, specifically issues around fungus and pest management that would need to be resolved. Because the animals are consuming the vegetation, it’s important that our spray programs not interfere with their health. At this time, the thought of adding complexity to our management programs seems unrealistic, but in time we hope to find an opportunity to work with sheep in some capacity on our farm. This experiment was part of the 2015 USDA Northeast SARE grant, FNE 15-802-29001. We will be updating this post with a final report on our findings....

Quality improvements during harvest

With a brand focused on quality, we are constantly looking for ways to improve the product we are delivering. With our 2015 harvest, our hops were used both as fresh whole leafs and dried pellets. Our fresh product had several changes to the process this year, while pellets were something new for us. The goal with our fresh hops, is to time our harvest at the hops peak aromatic moment, and get it into a brewers hands as soon as possible. The key elements are, timing of harvest, maintain quality during transport, and total time till arrival at the brewery. Harvest Timing Harvest timing is a mixture of experience, science, and equipment. With experience comes the ability to predict how the plant is maturing. Though touch we are able to feel as the hop begins to dry out, sight lets us see the first signs of browning on the leaves, and smell lets us know how pungent the hops are. Science helps us confirm this, through the use of dry matter analysis and monitoring the development of the lupulin glands. Both of those processes are ones we work on year-over-year to further refine, and will be knowledge our business will benefit from. Equipment is something we put a lot of focus on for our 2015 harvest. Equipment is what lets us cut down our hops with minimal damage to the plant, and it’s what lets us pluck the cones from the bine in a efficient and gentle manor. We purchased and assembled a Wolf 140 harvester which dramatically increased the speed at which we could pick, which meant we...

Fresh Hop Beers – 2015

We are thrilled to have worked with another killer line up of brewers this year. Below is a list of the fresh hop beers we had a chance to play a part in.   Sebago Brewing Company – Local Harvest Allagash Brewing Company – Sixteen Counties Liquid Riot – Copa Wet Hop Tributary – Harvest Ale Great Rhythm – Hop Harvest Bunker Brewing – Green Mind Hobbs Brewing – TBD Tuckermens – TBD Austin Street –...

2015 Harvest Through Instagram

Here are a few shots of our hops heading into the world. You can follow us here! A few hundred pounds of these FRESH Centennial Hops should make for a pretty epic Wet Hop IPA coming soon from @greatrhythmbrewing! #newhampshire #craftbeer #drinkgreatbeer #drinkcraftbeer #hops #greatrhytmbrewing A photo posted by Matt Berkowitz (@mattberky) on Sep 10, 2015 at 3:53pm PDT #beerart A photo posted by My Name Is Greg (@theabbot1) on Sep 8, 2015 at 5:14pm PDT We love this time of year! A couple hundred pounds of freshly harvested Maine hops from @thehopyard just arrived. Later today more hops will arrive from Aroostook Hops just in time to brew Sixteen Counties. #harvest #mainefarms #hops A photo posted by Allagash Brewing Company (@allagashbrewing) on Sep 8, 2015 at 9:54am PDT Salt -N-Peppa think 10 fresh #'s of Centennial wet hops are Very Necessary for a wet hopped beer very soon! #wethop #wethops #shoopingtime #verynecessary A photo posted by Liquid Riot Bottling Co. (@liquid_riot) on Sep 8, 2015 at 10:08am PDT Wet hops! Today we brewed a pale ale with 20lbs of @thehopyard Cascade, and 1/2lb of Cascade from our own bines. We'll ferment this with 100% Brettanomyces. Brett Loves Wet Hops. A photo posted by @austinstreetbrewery on Sep 8, 2015 at 1:19pm PDT Green Mind 2K15! Thanks @thehopyard for the cultivation, @allagashbrewing for some dank leftovers, and the wasteland for some local terroir. 120# Maine Hops/7BBl Batch=Blazzow A photo posted by Bunker Brewing Co (@bunkerbrewing) on Sep 9, 2015 at 1:08pm...

Sheep on a hop yard

This year as part of a SARE grant we’ve organized an trial experiment to bring six sheep from North Star Sheep Farm onto the hop yard to test their ability to manage weeds and defoliate the bottoms of our hop plants. Both of these tasks are currently being managed by herbicides and manual input with marginal success. The weeds are so persistent in some areas that multiple applications is required, and some weeds seem rather resilient against the sprays all together. As for defoliation, our current method involves spraying the bottom few feet of the plant to kill the leaves, then manually stripping each plant after. These sprays are not cheap, and do acidify the soil which requires us to then rebalance our PH every few years. The hope is that the sheep will have the effect of broadly eating back all the weeds (except milkweed, which was manually pulled prior to their arrival), and also trimming the leaves off the bottom few feet of the plants. We will be utilizing the sheep during the latter half of the growing year when our plants have reached the top of the trellis and have thick enough bines that we are less concerned about damage occurring. We will be testing this on a section of Nugget hops in our Southern Maine yard. Look for another update at the end of the summer as we recap our...

Downy mildew is on the attack

Southern Maine’s summer started off in June with long stretches of cool soaking wet weather (see here). We then progressed into July, which was filled with long stretches of hot wet weather (see here). These periods of extended moisture have led to the festering of Downy Mildew around the yard. While it’s no surprise to see DM on our southern yard, it certainly is frustrating that conditions were so ideal for it. It makes for an expensive and time consuming battle to keep plants healthy. This fall we’ll be taking additional measures to drench our hop crowns with a systemic fungicide that will better protect them for the spring and 2016 growing season. Interestingly, our Norther Maine yard experienced no signs of DM, and while we’d like to keep it that way, we’ll also be ready for a battle if it shows up. Below is an image for a couple of plants that will likely not make it through the season due to their rate of Downy...