Farmers get hopping

Beer fans know that hops are crucial. The dried plant acts as a preservative and adds bitterness to balance the flavor of sweeter malts. In the U.S., the Pacific Northwest is hop-growing country. But, thanks to the growing craft beer movement here,  farmers in North Carolina are experimenting with growing the plants.

The N.C. Cooperative Extension Service is offering the Second Annual Hops Farm Tour on July 31, which will include visits to two farms in the Asheville, N.C. area (and, of course, a beer tasting afterward at French Broad Brewing Company). To sign up for the tour or get more information, call (828) 255.5522.

N.C. State University in Raleigh, N.C. is working to see just how well hops will do in the state’s climate. The plant is not easy to grow, although it is drought resistant and could become a profitable crop as interest in microbreweries – and using local products – continues to increase. Hops have to be grown on 20-foot trellises or wires, and apparently wiring them up isn’t a lot of fun. For a good explanation of the process and challenges, visit here.

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