JERSEY SHORE - The craft beer movement has been chugging along for years now. More beer drinkers are interested in drinking brews that are made with expertise, unique contents and, in some places, local ingredients.
Dan Greenway, of Jersey Shore, growns four varieties of hops - Cascade, Zeus, Chinook and Centennial - which he sells to local and regional state breweries. The tall vines stretch toward the sky on his parent's farm in the borough.
Hops are the female flowers of the hop plant and are used as a flavoring in beer. They provide a bitter, tangy flavor.
JESSICA WELSHANS/Sun-Gazette Correspondent
Dan Greenway stands amid the hop plants he grows on his parents’ farm in Jersey Shore. His 400 plants include four varieties that provide varying levels of bitterness. Hop is a climbing, perennial plant that is trained to grow up strings.
JESSICA WELSHANS/Sun-Gazette Correspondent
The hop flower is the part of the plant that is used as a flavoring and stability agent in beer.
In 2010, Greenway began growing hops for a family friend who lives in Reno, Nevada.
"He is a big home brewer. He said, 'Why don't you grow me some hops?' I didn't really know anything about them," Greenway said.
After some research, he started with 100 plants in the ground. His first year was a success.
"So the next year, I tripled the number and went up to 400 plants, and that is where I have been the past three years," he said.
Greenway started sending the hops to his friend out west but realized he probably could sell them locally, too.
"I started getting into contact with local breweries. I said, 'I have local hops; are you interested?' I sell them hops and, each year, they usually do a fresh hops ale," he said.
Those breweries include Riepstine's Pub in Williamsport; Otto's Pub and Brewery in State College; and the Appalachian Brewing Co.'s main brewery in Harrisburg.
"They promote local, so they like to brew a local beer and get the ingredients fresh. I can provide that usually within the day or so, picking the hops, so they can add them right into the batch," Greenway said.
His customers are happy with his product.
"Yes, we've purchased hops from Dan in the past and fully intend on buying a lot more this year," said Bart Rieppel, of Riepstine's Pub.
"Riepstine's focus has always been to use as many fresh and local ingredients as we can, so having a hop farmer practically in our backyard helps make that possible," he added. "Our plan this year is to produce a 100 percent locally-hopped beer. Dan is a great guy and we commend him for all his very hard work producing local hops for the local breweries."
Otto's Pub and Brewery also uses Greenway's hops for a fresh brew.
"We usually make three beers with his hops. Three batches usually barrels about 30 to 40," said Charlie Schnable, co-owner of Otto's.
There, Greenway's hops make a mild hops beer, a pale ale and an India Pale Ale, better known as an IPA. Usually, the brews are named Greenway Pale Ale and Greenway IPA, Schnable said.
For "wet" ales, Greenway picks the hops and delivers them pretty directly. Hops usually are dried and added to a batch of beer, but when making fresh wet ale, they are added right off the vine.
"Every fall, once the hops are harvested, we literally get them fresh off the vine. We have been to the farm, and he delivers, too," said Mike Parker, marketing director of Appalachian Brewing Co. "We use them in a small batch called Greenway Farm Wet Hop Pale Ale."
Parker said they pitch the hops, a term used by brewers, right into the stages of the beer-making process.
"We don't have a lot of access to fresh hops. So for a farmer like Dan to be able to do what we need to do with hops, that's great. We source hops from all over the world," Parker said, adding that they arrive in trucks.
"If it's not the day of when we get the hops, it's the day after, and we use them right away," he said. "They have all these natural oils and flavors. When you are actually getting them from your backyard, there isn't anything like it."
Greenway said the bitterness of a hop is measured by alpha acid, a compound naturally found in the hop flowers.
Beers described as "hopsy" or "hoppy" have a bitter taste. The higher the alpha acid number, the more bitter the beer will be.
The Cascade variety that Greenway grows is a six alpha acid, making it mild. It is what would be added to an everyday beer, he said.
Centennial and Chinook are higher in alpha acids, roughly in the 10 to 12 range, and Zeus is in the 14 alpha acid range. The latter would be used in IPAs.
Greenway said he yielded about 250 pounds of fresh hops from his 400 plants.
Plants come back every year and begin to pop up from the ground in late March to early April, depending on the weather, Greenway said.
"The first couple shoots, you keep cutting them back ... in late April, you let them grow and string them up the trellis. I pick the biggest vines and string about three vines per string. Then cut the rest back, keeping them cut back," he said.
Hops are susceptible to some diseases but, in general, are fairly easy to grow, he said.
Many of the nation's hops are grown in the Western states, but Greenway said Pennsylvania sits on the same latitude of those states and so hops can be grown here, too.
"They like a lot of sun and water, so I keep them irrigated," he said.
As of late July, the Centennials were getting close to harvest. Each variety differs a little in when it can be picked. The Chinook comes on in August and the Cascade was just beginning to flower. Greenway said it will be a month to six weeks before the Cascades can be picked.
The hops that aren't sold for fresh brews are dried by Greenway. He has crafted his own forced hot-air dryer.
"I dry them and vacuum seal them and freeze them to keep them fresh," he said.
Greenway is a fan of the "hopsy," or bitter, beers and it seems almost fitting since he grows one of the main ingredients. He said the "beer movement" really has grown over the past few years, especially the interest in more bitter flavors.
"There are so many microbreweries popping up and people are drinking more hops beers ... it seems like, in the last few years, it's the new thing," he said. "People are really getting into beer. It's almost like the new wine."