From seeds to suds: Wexford farm grows hops for local craft brews
Jake Kristophel's dream is to one day be able to produce a completely locally sourced beer.
The co-owner and head brewer of Full Pint Brewing, North Versailles, is hopeful that Soergel Orchards is taking a hop in the right direction toward achieving that goal.
The longtime Wexford-based business is believed to be the first orchard in the Pittsburgh area to begin growing hops to supply to local craft breweries.
The increase of craft brewing in the greater Pittsburgh area, combined with the fact “there are not a lot of growers around,” makes Soergel's experiment “a natural fit” for this niche market, says Ralph Johns, chief operating officer.
As Soergel's first customer, Kristophel couldn't be happier.
“I think it's awesome! I always would rather rely on a local source of ingredients, not just in brewing, but everything I buy when possible,” he says. “Relying on local is way better than getting your ingredients from halfway across the world.”
Full Pint, a production brewery with a brewpub attached, has experienced “100 percent growth” every year since opening in 2009, says Kristophel.
“More and more restaurants, bars and local distributors are starting to realize what people want: 1. Good beer and 2. Local beer,” he says.
“Knowing where the products come from that are being used in a beer that you are drinking adds a story to the beer itself,” says Noah Petronic, organic-farm manager and greenhouse grower for Soergel's, who, after researching the agriculture behind brewing, proposed that the company install a hops yard on its organic farm.
“The fact that you can have a beer in the city and then drive 15 minutes north to ask the farmer who grew the hops that went into it how they grew it brings back a whole new sense to the local movement, which hasn't had a chance to prosper since before Prohibition,” he says. “The beer not only brings a lovely pallet of local flavors to the consumer, but it brings a story for the brewery to tell to their customers.”
While there are many home brewers growing hops, Petronic says, Soergel's is now part of a “very, very short list” of hops growers in Western and Central Pennsylvania.
“It brings another element of farm to table — or farm to keg — bringing local agriculture to the local craft-brewing industry, and also helps give our farm a little more biodiversity,” he says.
There are more craft breweries in the area than Soergel's can accommodate at this time, Petronic says.
“With this want from the breweries for fresh hops and other ingredients, I'm hoping that other farmers will see that the brewing industry is agriculture and we can grow and be part of this industry,” he says.
He wants to spread the word among farmers that it can provide another outlet for their crop production.
There is a lot of room for the industry to expand, he assures. “Plus, having other farmers involved would open up more access to information and possible equipment-sharing,” he says. Harvesting hops is time-consuming by hand.
“We like the farm-to-table idea, taking that product and making something fresh and new to get to people. Locally sourced is better for the environment and community and business,” Ralph Johns says. “It also gives us the opportunity to partner locally. It's another way of small business supporting small business. I like that aspect.”
Rex Rutkoski is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Power play shines in Penguins’ victory
- Steelers not limiting themselves in free agency
- Two jailed after brawl in Washington County
- Icy roads cause multiple vehicle accidents Sunday evening
- Duquesne University football player died by suicide
- North Allegheny runners capture indoor state titles
- Pitt women end regular season with win over Clemson
- National Weather Service predicts up to 7 inches of snow before Sunday night
- Rossi: Pirates must pay for Mr. Right
- Pirates notebook: Sadler gets first Grapefruit start
- Coyotes proliferate despite year-round hunting