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Thursday, August 23 2012

Looks like Schmidt Farm was in the news this week.  You can read the full article at this link.

Brewing up a revival in Hops

or below

Brewing up a revival in hops in Ontario County

By Scott Pukos, staff writer
Messenger Post
Posted Aug 19, 2012 @ 06:00 AM
On a Saturday afternoon in August, friends and family gathered for a celebration
at the Bowerman farm in Victor. Stories were shared and laughs were had. However, there was
one problem: The keg was kicked.  Luckily , that’s not too much of an obstacle when the hosts are hops farmers.  “That’s what happens when you invite a bunch of hopheads out,” said Kurt Charland, a co-owner at The Bluebell Hopyard on the Bowerman’s Cline Road farm. Luckily , Charland — along with fellow owners Fred Armstrong and Rob Potter — still had plenty of beer for their “hophead”
guests to enjoy .  The cause of their celebration was their newest crop — hops.  A hop is a tiny cone-shaped plant used as an ingredient in beer. It’s a bitter plant that is meant to add flavor to beer and to balance out the sweetness from the malt. Hops grow upward, meaning they typically stretch vertically up a lengthy section of rope or wire.  It’s no surprise that Charland, like many other fellow growers, prefers a more “hoppy ” beer, such as an Indian pale ale (IPA). The Bluebell Hopyard will eventually be able to produce plenty of IPA with its 500 hop plants that grow on Bry ce Bowerman’s Victor farm.  The Bluebell trio aren’t the only ones attempting to bring back the art of hops farming to Ontario County . In fact, one of their neighbors is also getting into the beer business.  Stephan Schmidt, owner of Schmidt Farm on County Road 8 in Farmington, has about 800
hops plants stretched out on an acre of his property . But despite his new crop, Schmidt isn’t the beer fanatic that you might suspect.  “Actually , I don’t even drink beer,” Schmidt said. “I’m an entrepreneur, I have a lot of different businesses, and this is another one I just started.”  Schmidt also owns a website-hosting business, and he has a farming background as well. Even in a region known for wine, he decided to follow a different path.  “There are too many people doing grapes,” he said. “I needed to do something different, something unique.” Hopping on the bandwagon Schmidt doesn’t plan to use his hops to brew his own beer. Instead, he plans to sell his hops to microbreweries in the Rochester and Canandaigua area. He’ll also target home brewers as customers.  At this early stage, it won’t be the most lucrative business, he added.
“It’s not going to be profitable for five or six y ears, but hopefully down the road it’ll be
profitable,” Schmidt said.
Schmidt explained that in the first y ear, his crop would grow about a third of the way up the
rope — which is about 15 feet high. The plants will be harvested at the end of August or
September, and next y ear they ’ll grow back taller than that initial y ear. Schmidt said in y ear two,
the plants will grow almost to the top of the rope, and by the third y ear, the hop area will
become a “wall of green.” While profits won’t peak until the growing process is well underway , expenses to start a hop farm are costly at the beginning. “On average you’re looking at investing about $12,000 per acre to get it up,” Schmidt said. “That’s your initial investment. The next y ear, you have to spray and maintain the area, take care of the weeds, things like that. Y our bigger costs will come down to y ear two or three when you have more harvest to do, because you need to buy
more equipment.”  Equipment such as a harvester costs about $40,000, he added. The other option, aside from costly equipment, is to handpick the hops.  Once the hops are picked, farmers can either sell them, like what Schmidt plans to do, or they can utilize them to brew their own beer. That’s the plan for the men of The Bluebell 2/3 The art of hopping According to Bluebell co-owner Rob Potter, typically about six to eight ounces of hops are used in a five-gallon batch of beer. He noted that is the estimate for a more hoppy beer, like an IPA, and includes dry hopping. He explained that dry
hopping is the addition of hops after fermentation, when the beer is ready to be bottled. By contrast, wet hopping is when the hops are used immediately after they ’re picked.  One plant will produce about one to two pounds of hops, Schmidt said. Aside from adding bitterness to the brew, or for dry hopping, hops can also be used to enrich the aroma, Potter said.  Both Schmidt and Potter agreed it’s a good time to get into the hops business. It could be getting even better after legislation
that protects a vital tax benefit for the state’s breweries was passed earlier this summer by the state Legislature and signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Specifically , the legislation states that any brewery that produces 60 million or fewer gallons of beer in New Y ork will be eligible for a refundable tax credit applied against personal income and business taxes. The credit is worth 14 cents per gallon for the first 500,000 gallons and 4.5 cents per gallon for the next 15 million gallons produced.
A history of hops In the late 1800s, the hop industry thrived in New Y ork State, said Sydney Loftus, a co-chair of the Madison County Hop Fest and the executive director of the Madison County Historical Society . Areas of central New Y ork — particularly Madison, Oneida and Otsego counties — produced 80 percent of the nation’s hops in 1880, Loftus said. Ontario County also
was a bright spot in hops farming. At Bluebell there are still hops growing on the property that were started about 150 years ago, Charland estimated.  Unfortunately , the golden age of hops in New Y ork ended decades ago. Loftus said hops production was cut down by a combination of things that included, a mold called downy mildew that plagued the plants, prohibition and competition from
the Pacific Northwest.  But that unfortunate bit of history is not deterring New Y ork farmers — like Schmidt and the Bluebell guy s — from try ing to revive the art form. “It’s bringing back history , which is awesome,” Charland said of the hop farming. “It’s a piece of history that’s almost been
lost, and we’re kind of bringing it back.”  Festivals like the one in Madison County help raise awareness of the hop culture, Loftus added. This will be the 17th annual Madison County Hop Fest, which takes place in Oneida. The festival is scheduled for Sept. 14 to Sept. 16. Aside from having brewing demonstrations and exhibits detailing the history of the beer ingredient, the Hop
Fest will also have hop-shaped jewelry available for those who want to visibly display their love of the plant. The festival also preaches fun — something that is also a vital part of The Bluebell Hopyard and Schmidt Farm. “It has been fun, it’s not like work,” said Fred Armstrong, a co-owner at Bluebell. “It’s a partnership where we enjoy each other’s company .”
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