Ag knack earns Colorado brewery national recognition

Story Eric Brown
The Fence Post
(Photo courtesy of the Greeley, Colo., Tribune)

High Hops Brewery in Windsor, Colo., opened its doors just a year ago and already the national honors are rolling in.

But rather than earning recognition solely for the taste of their brewskis, it was the High Hops founders’ knack for agriculture that garnered the attention.

The brew-pub was recently named one of the “10 Awesome Farm-to-Pint Breweries” by

Applauded by the national website for growing its own hops and working with other hops farmers in the region, High Hops was the only brewery in Colorado to crack the top 10 list.

“It’s quite an honor,” said Zach Weakland, head brewer at High Hops. “It was certainly a surprise.”

Weakland explained that High Hops’ 2 1/2-acre hops farm — next to the brewery’s patio — produces about half of its needed supply, while the operation buys its other half from nearby Colorado hops growers.

But High Hops’ agricultural activities go beyond that, Weakland said.

On its 15-acre plot on the west end of town, the business devotes another half acre to growing raspberries, strawberries and lemon verbena needed in its brewing.

Another half acre is used to grow wormwood used by Overland Trinity in Loveland, Colo., to produce its award-winning Trinity Absinthe.

Also, the extracted grains from its brewing operations are used to feed High Hops’ flock of about 40 chickens on site, which produce eggs for the Weakland family and employees.

For its inaugural list to identify some of the best “farm-to-pint” breweries across the U.S., editors said they “looked at breweries with a commitment to source the best local ingredients for their beers while also supporting their local agriculture industry.”

The Weakland family’s interest in ag runs much deeper than just the past year the brewery’s been open, Weakland said.

His parents, Amanda and Pat Weakland, began the family business in 1991 as Plant-A-Scape — a small, seasonal greenhouse. Both parents have a history in plants, with Pat representing the third generation of growers on his side of the family, and Amanda growing up helping on her family farm.

The small Plant-A-Scape business is now called The Windsor Gardener — also located at High Hops Brewery site.

For several years, brewing beer was simply a hobby for the Weaklands, while plant-growing and supplies was the main business focus.

Gaining an increased interest in home-brewing, the Weakland’s eventually started growing their own hops — about one acre — in 2007 during a nationwide hop shortage.

In 2010, the Weaklands opened up a home-brew shop inside of The Windsor Gardener, making brewing supplies readily available to the family and to other brewers in the area.

And then in early 2012, the Weaklands began to construct a brewhouse.

High Hops Brewery had its official grand opening on Oct. 19, 2012.

While the brewery has already garnered national “farm-to-pint” recognition in its one-year of existence, Zach said the Weaklands have no plans of slowing down on the agricultural side of things.

“We really see ourselves growing, as far as that goes,” said Zach, while also noting that there are four goats on location, supporting the Weakland’s cheese-making hobby.

Zach said they’d like to eventually have all 15 acres put to use — growing more of its own hops and eventually supplying other breweries, and maybe even expanding its livestock operations to offer more food choices at the brewery.

“We love the idea of producing everything needed on site, but we’ll just see how things go,” Zach said. “One hail storm can wipe you out, so it’s good to maintain relationships with other suppliers.

“Regardless, we certainly want to expand on what we’re already doing here.” ❖