With an overwhelming demand for hops and craft breweries popping up throughout the country, a few friends got together and had an idea… why not grow hops in Indiana? Spencer Gray, Alex Dawes, and Matt Baxter of Sugar Creek Farms have just finished their first season in the hop biz and after working together a few times now we decided to pay them a visit to learn more about their operation and goals for the future.
After a some research they Spencer Gray, Alex Dawes, and Matt Baxter discovered that they could in fact grow hops in Indiana and decided to go for it. During the winter they stocked up on used telephone poles for their hop trellis and waited for the ground to thaw. While waiting patiently they contacted experienced hop farmers in Yakima to get some advice about varieties that might do well in Indiana and what potential challenges they would face. “These are 5th and 6th generation hop farmers so they have a lot of knowledge about the process. They were extremely helpful and open to talking about their experiences hop farming and gave us great advice,” Gray mentioned.
When the ground finally thawed the team set up their trellis and planted 5 acres total – 2 of Centennial, 2 of Cascade, and 1 of Chinook. In addition to these three hops they have 13 others in field trials. “Were still waiting to see what will happen in our 2nd and 3rd year, it takes a while for the plants to get established.”
Understanding the huge demand for hops, Sugar Creek has also taken on brokering hops to smaller breweries and home brewers. Gray explained, “It can be hard for the smaller guys to get a hold of the hops they need so we decided to fill that void as well as growing Indiana hops.” “Brokering is the bigger project right now until we get the yard the way we want it.” Alex says. With an industrial picker already in place, Sugar Creek will also be a place where other farmers to come and process their hops. They are now working on acquiring a hop pelletizer that will process hops that are to be sold. “Fresh hops are awesome, but the window to use them is very short and some brewery systems can’t can’t handle whole leaf hops.”
After a walk around the farm we moved our discussion from hops to beer. Here’s what the Sugar Creek folks are they drinking now:
Alex: “I’m a major IPA fan, Dragonfly IPA is my ultimate… but right now I’ve been enjoying lambics.”
Spencer – “Coastbuster IPA is a really exciting beer and probably my favorite beer right now. I really enjoyed the UpCup winner brew Good Miss Mosaic as well.” Outside of Upland he is sipping on Scarlet Lane Brewing and BBC’s 10 Speed.
Matt – “I’m a really seasonal drinker so I’ve been enjoying a lot of Upland Oktoberfest and Saisons. I’m looking forward to porters and stouts soon!”
“We’re excited to be growing hops and working towards growing the Indiana hop industry. Can’t wait to see what next year’s yield is like.”
We can’t either.
So far Sugar Creek Hops have been used in a 4 way collaboration brew ‘Up 4 It’ with Upland Brew Co, Upslope Brewing, Upstate Brewing, and Upright Brewing. This brew made its debut last week at the Great American Beer Fest and included a local ingredient from each brewery. Read more about it here.