Andrew, Erik, and Randy from the Modern Homebrew Emporium in Cambridge, MA made the trek out to Four Star Farms to see their progress in bringing commercially-viable hop production back to New England. A few years ago their .75 acre pilot plot was newly established and the labor necessary to hand-pick even that small number of plants was obviously unsustainable.Now with 7 acres in the ground out of a planned 10 acre plot, their operation has grown substantially.
This year they’ve reconditioned a small-scale German hop-sorting machine that separating the cones from the waste in a tiny fraction of the time hand-picking took. And they need it! With 1,000 plants per acre and 2 bines per plant, spending an hour per bine just doesn’t make sense. There simply isn’t enough time (let alone labor) to pick all of the goodness in the few week window you have. With this machine, a team of three people can process that can process 180 bines/hour.
Very few have the opportunity to go straight from field to kettle with wet hops. Once they’re picked, there’s drying and storage that need to happen ASAP. The other half of the barn is devoted to just that operation. After an 8-12 hour drying regime, one person can compress and vacuum seal a day’s worth of harvest in just a couple of hours using some innovative home-made hydraulic hop compressors.
Homebrew Emporium has contracted with Four Star Farms to provide some Massachusetts-grown Cascade hops. With any luck, we’ll have them in our nitrogen-flushed packaging by the end of October.