Hops vines reach for the sky at Mike Byers’ Potters Mills farm, Demeter’s Garden. Photo by Andrew Beam
by Andy Gabriel
Imagine taking a seat at a local pub and enjoying a frosty beer brewed with hops grown right here in Centre County. Thanks to two area farmers, that dream may soon become a reality.
Mike Byers, of Potters Mills, and Scott Case, of Aaronsburg, began growing hops last year just to see if it could be done. Both farmers are expecting their first harvest in August, and plan to sell their hops to Elk Creek Café and Aleworks in Millheim.
Tim Yarrington, head brewer at the café, confirmed that the company is interested in buying hops from both Byers and Case. Hops provide bitterness, flavor and aroma to a beer and are essential to the brewing process.
The two farmers could be the first to grow hops commercially in the area.
Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture membership director Michelle Gauger said there are no hops farms that belong to PASA and she is not aware of any that exist in Centre County.
Yarrington did not know of any local hops farms until Byers and Case began planting last year.
The two hops farms are the newest addition to a growing movement that emphasizes locally grown foods.
Elk Creek Café already supports the “buy local” trend in other ways. It boasts that most of the food it serves is raised or grown locally, and that its beers are brewed on-site.
Yarrington said there are many advantages to buying local ingredients, and hops would be no exception. He said having a relationship with farmers is an advantage, since it allows him to know exactly what he is buying – what goes into the hops and, more importantly, what stays out.
Both farmers said they are growing their hops organically.