Mar 03, 2015 Jason Emerson Uncategorized
After spending two months crossing the Atlantic Ocean from Germany, waiting in the port of New York City and braving the cold and snowy roads of Upstate New York, The Wolf recently arrived in Cazenovia.
The Wolf is not an animal or a person, but an 11.5-ton hops harvester/picker that is now permanently in place on a Rathbun Road hops farm in Cazenovia. It will be the foundation of The Bineyard — a new hops cooperative and distribution center that has plans to be the main hops processing and distribution facility in the CNY region.
“The Bineyard will be an aggregator of high-quality hops, which is a benefit to both the local farmers — it lowers their barrier to entry so they don’t have to invest the capital in expensive harvesting and processing equipment — and local brewers — they won’t have to make relationships with numerous small farmers, but can come to one place for their local, New York State-grown hops. This all benefits the buy local, buy New York state efforts, and supports the New York State Farm Brewery initiative,” said Chad Meigs, local hops growing expert and proprietor, along with his wife Kate Brodock, of The Bineyard.
“We are going to create place here were local farmers in a 50-to-100-mile radius, can bring their hops, get processed here, or sell hops directly to us. We’ve also created and continued to create a relationship with brewers where they come directly to us as clearing house for local hops,” Brodock said.
Hops (humulus lupulus) are the flowering cone of a perennial vining plant —` and are one of the essential ingredients in beer. Hops help flavor and stabilize the beer during brewing, and as a brewing agent affects bitterness and aromas.
During the 19th and early 20th centuries, Madison County was the hops growing capital of the world. In recent years, many famers and craft brewers have been trying to rebuild that status, which was killed by Prohibition.
“The hops industry all over the state is growing very quickly, and it needs to because the craft beer industry is growing at 15 to 20 percent a year. Five years ago it was only about 3 to 4 percent. By 2020, craft beer will be about 20 percent of the total U.S. market,” said Steven Miller, hops specialist at Cornell Cooperative Extension of Madison County. “Craft beer is selling all over the U.S., but New York is one of the fastest growing markets.”
Meigs and Brodock started their endeavor about five years ago, after moving to Cazenovia from Boston. Meigs started home brewing, educating himself on the growing and brewing process and planted a quarter acre of bines (hops vines) on their property.
“The original plan for that specifically was to experiment to see if we wanted to do it grand scale,” Brodock said.
Things were going so well — and Meigs had learned so much that he gained a reputation as a local hops expert and had begun working as a consultant to numerous hops yards in the area — that the couple moved to a 75-acre farm on Rathbun Road last October and this spring will plant a four-acre trellis system of hops.
“We’ve been working towards this moment for a few years,” Meigs said. “Since we moved in October, we’ve been full-speed ahead and feel great — if overwhelmed — about where we are. We’ve got the Wolf (the cornerstone of the business); we’ve got several grant requests out; we have investors and several farms and breweries on board. This should be a really exciting year!”
The Bineyard will offer five varieties of whole leaf hops for commercial and home brewers alike. The Bineyard Hops are cultivated using organic methods and environmentally-friendly agricultural practices, hand harvested, in the dryer within the hour, then vacuum-sealed and freezer stored to reduce oxygen contamination and ensure freshness.
In addition to their hops, Meigs and Brodock offer the processing and distribution of other farmers’ hops as well. The Bineyard will have its harvester (the Wolf), a dryer (called an oast), a baler to put the hops into bales and a pelletizer.
Local farmers can then bring their hops to The Bineyard for processing, and brewers can then come to The Bineyard to purchase from the various hops that have been brought in, rather than traveling to multiple hops farms all over the region, Brodock said.
“All of this equipment, we and other farmers around would not want to get for individual use because it is too expensive – so farmers can come to us for processing. That was part of the hole we saw: it was too much for one farmer to get for themselves,” she said.
The hops harvest occurs in August, so between now and then Meigs and Brodock are informing people of their new business, talking to farmers and brewers and getting ready to begin.
Currently, they have four hops farms contracted to harvest with them, and are in discussions with additional farmers, Brodock said. The Bineyard also has three committed breweries to using the hops they produce: Empire Brewing Company, of Syracuse and Cazenovia; Good Nature Brewing Company, of Hamilton; and Kelso Beer Company, of New York City.
“What Chad and others [around the state] are doing is fantastic,” said David Katleski, owner of Empire Brewing Company and founder and president of the New York State Brewers Association. “Hops produced here lends itself to the flavors of the region. You really can tell New York state hops by its terroir. It’s kind of like Burgundy wine — Madison County hops has a certain flavor profile, it is unique and citrusy.”
Katleski said Meigs will be assisting Empire’s Cazenovia farmstead brewery once it is up and running this year, and Empire will “definitely” purchase its hops from The Bineyard.
Miller said The Bineyard should be successful because it will be one of only about 16 hops harvesters in the state, and one of the few in this region.
“There definitely will be a need for their services,” Miller said. “We have about 140 brewery licenses issued and another 70 farm brewery licenses [upcoming], and farm brewers need to buy a certain percentage of hops and other ingredients from New York state producers. That will definitely have an impact on the amount of hops needed to be planted in the state.”
Meigs and Brodock said they believe the future is bright and the market opportunity for local hops “couldn’t be larger.”
“We’re at the cusp of the local craft brewery movement, and we’re right at the front — providing a high-quality, local option to the Pacific Northwest hop commodity,” Meigs said. “I think we’re going to see a lot of growth in this area in the near future. One hundred years ago, Madison County was one of the major hops growing areas in the country, and we’re doing our part to bring it back. And with hops farming comes brewing!”
For more information on The Bineyard or hops farming and processing, contact Meigs at email@example.com or visit thebineyard.com and Facebook.com/thebineyard.
Jason Emerson is editor of the Cazenovia Republican. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jason Emerson is editor of the Cazenovia Republican and Eagle Bulletin newspapers.