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Introducing the Hardywood Community Hopping Project

on Fri, 03/09/2012 - 3:54pm

Hardywood Park Craft Brewery is giving away 1,000 hop rhizomes to make central Virginia a little greener, and the hops in one Richmond beer a little fresher. Hops, the primary bittering ingredient in beer, are small flowers that grow on a perennial bine. Starting Friday, March 9, 2012, Hardywood is offering up to four free rhizomes to home gardeners on a first-come first-served basis via a submission form on their website (below). The brewers hope to use hops harvested from the crop in their once-annual “community hopped” beer, RVA IPA, which was first brewed in a 40-gallon batch in September, 2011, with a few pounds of fresh hops donated by home growers.

The “community hopping” idea came from years of home brewing with freshly harvested hops grown by friends of Hardywood’s co-founders, Eric McKay and Patrick Murtaugh. According to Hardywood president, Eric McKay, “our hope is to engage Richmonders in a community growing project that starts with planting and nurturing, leads to a Hop Harvest Festival at the brewery, and culminates in the sharing of one of America’s most unique beers.”

Brewmaster Patrick Murtaugh explains “There’s nothing quite like a wet-hopped IPA - you simply cannot replicate the freshness of the resins with dried hops - the finished product is extraordinary.” Hardywood’s Reserve Series includes eight small batch releases that utilize ingredients local to the Richmond area. With Hardywood RVA IPA, this local ingredient will be the hops grown by area gardeners.

Through the 1800s and early-1900s, when thousands of small breweries thrived across the country, Virginia was a fairly robust hop growing region, but hop growing declined in the south due to susceptibility to mold, industrialization of the brewing industry, and ultimately, Prohibition. Today, small craft breweries are rising in numbers nationwide (from just 80 breweries in 1980 to nearly 2,000 today), and new hybrid hop varieties are far more tolerant to the south’s humid summers.

The rhizomes offered, including Cascade, Centennial, Chinook and Columbus, were selected, in part, due to their resilience in Virginia’s humid summers, and in part for their intended proportions in the RVA IPA recipe. Fertile soil, regular watering and plenty of sunshine are the key components of hop growth, as well as something to grow along, which could be deck rails, a garden trellis or twine hanging from a pole or other tall structure. Hop flowers typically start growing in the second growing season.

Participants will all receive a free “I Grow Hops” sticker along with some helpful literature on hop growing. Rhizomes will be distributed at Hardywood during normal tasting room hours as soon as they arrive in late March. Anyone interested may join the Hardywood Community Hopping Project Facebook group dedicated to sharing resources, ideas, suggestions, and success stories throughout the hop growing process. Growers will also receive free entry to an annual Hop Harvest Festival at Hardywood Park Craft Brewery in late summer.

Join the Hardywood Community Hopping Project Facebook group here:

Sign up to participate in the Hardywood Community Hopping Project by filling out the form below: