Windsor hop farm plants seed for future crop infrastructure | TheFencePost.com

Windsor hop farm plants seed for future crop infrastructure

Allison Dyer Bluemel | FOR Windsor Now!

Many find starting something from the ground up laborious, but Windsor residents Jeremy and Tammy Gourd relished in the opportunity to build a better hop infrastructure and started G5 Hop Fields at 11095 Colo. 392 in Windsor.

Nationally, hops contributed $33.9 billion to the economy in 2012 but remain a relatively unknown crop to Colorado farmers, something the Gourds hope to change.

The venture began when the land's owner, longtime rancher David Stromberger, offered the Gourds the chance to cultivate hops on a five-acre piece of his land. They jumped at the chance.

With Stromberger's blessing — and the goal of providing hops for northern Colorado's breweries and home brewers — the Gourds began installing the 304 20-foot poles and 35,000 feet of cable to begin their operation.

“As we move further into the future and continue to build the relationships, we hope to satisfy a portion of the demand for local breweries.”

Recommended Stories For You

Most of the labor on the land has been done by the Gourds and their three children — a total of five Gourds which gave them the hop fields' name — who all have worked to set the fields up to be as self sustaining and organic as possible, Tammy said.

"We're really trying to pioneer a new crop for farmers," Jeremy said.

The operation has attracted attention beyond farmers, however, as commuters often pull over on the side of the highway to observe the rising hop poles, Jeremy said.

"From day one we have woken up with excitement and the curiosity of people rolling by," he said. "It's funny that people put their lives in danger just to pull over and ask us what we're doing."

The couple's love of brewing began four and a half years ago when Jeremy started growing hops from High Hops Brewery in Windsor alongside their house.

"This is a great love and hobby of ours to not only brew at home, but to also see them grow," he said.

The Gourds represent a small number of commercial hop farmers in Colorado, at least they will when they're two and half planted acres becomes established in a few seasons.

While craft breweries thrive in Colorado — making it third nationally in number of active breweries, barrels produced and breweries per capita — the agricultural climate does not often come to mind for hop growers who gravitate toward the longer growing days of Washington, Oregon and Idaho, said Bart Watson, chief economist of the Brewers Association.

The Brewers Association is a national organization resulting from the merging of the Association of Brewers and the Brewers Association of America in 2005. It includes the American Homebrewers Association and the Institute for Brewing and Fermentation Studies.

"(Nationally) the hops production has kept up with hop brewing," he said.

However, Colorado falls behind the 38,392 acres of hops produced by the top three producing states — Washington, Oregon and Idaho — in 2014 with only 75 acres of hops in the state, Watson said.

In 2012, the top producing state of Washington saw an economic impact of over $1 billion from the craft brewing industry. Comparatively, Colorado's craft brewing industry had an impact of $1.6 million, according to the Brewers Association.

"It's a little more complicated in Colorado," he said. "Certainly there is a demand for local products, but the industry is much smaller and a lot of brewers at the moment are not basing their recipes in Colorado."

This has caused the price of hops in Colorado to rise due to an ever-increasing demand accompanied by a slower growth in supply, he said.

Additionally, the increasing popularity of craft beers that use more hops per barrel — such as IPAs and dry-hopped beers — and the growing home brewing scene puts more pressure on local growers to produce, Watson said.

It is under this looming demand the Gourds hope to step up the region's hop supply, they said.

"We want to be able to provide for the northern Colorado breweries as a whole," Jeremy said.

While they hope to see their business flourish, Tammy said they don't feel fueled by competition with other growers or brewers.

The Gourds hope that as their operation grows so will their community ties to other breweries and farmers.

"As we move further into the future and continue to build the relationships we hope to satisfy a portion of the demand for local breweries," Jeremy said.

The couple aims to stay true to their home brew roots and membership to the American Homebrewers Association by helping others get into the hobby, they said.

Dennis Swingler, president of Treehouse Brewing Club in Greeley, views the Gourds' fields as a great opportunity for homebrewing in the area, he said.

"More and more people are learning about craft beer and starting to taste craft beers," he said. "They get used to drinking it and start learning how to make their own."

The fields will not only offer a larger local supply for breweries and bring the commercial cost down, but also give hobbyists a more cost-effective way to get hops without growing their own, Swingler said.

"It really is a dream come true," Jeremy said.

Colorado Brewery Statistics

• 235 craft breweries (ranked third in the nation)

• 6.1 breweries per capita* (ranked third in nation)

• $1,634.2 million in economic impact in 2012 (ranked fifth in the nation)

• 1.67 million barrels of craft beer produced per year (ranked third in the nation)

• 13.6 gallons per 21+ adult (ranked second in the nation)

*per 100,000 21+ adults

Data courtesy of the Brewers Association

• • •

2014 national hops acreage

State Acres Grown

Washington 29,021

Oregon 5,559

Idaho 3,812

Michigan 300

New York 150

Wisconsin 120

Colorado 75

California 65

North Carolina/Ohio 30

Data courtesy of the Brewers Association

• • •

Total national craft brewer hop usage

Year Million of Pounds

2007 6.0

2008 6.4

2009 8.6

2010 11.8

2011 12.0

2012 14.4

2013 16.4*

2014 18.6*

Data courtesy of the Brewers Association

• • •

Historical Number of Breweries in the U.S.

Year Brewery Count

1970 138

1975 110

1980 92

1985 110

1990 284

1995 858

2000 1,566

2005 1,447

2010 1,813

2011 2,033

2012 2,456

2013 2,917

2014 3,464

Data courtesy of the Brewers Association