Wednesday, 30 August 2017 14:14

Hop Harvest on Hump Day

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Hop Harvest on Hump Day Submitted photo

On Wednesday of this week I had the profoundly inspiring opportunity to harvest some hops from Empire Farm Brewery, a hop farm and brewery in Cazenovia, NY.

And while I usually do my beer adventures on a weekend, this opportunity would not be around for long so I grabbed what tools I thought would be helpful during my adventure.

Excited to leave my Nine to Five job early, I packed my pockets full of recycled grocery bags, and a utility knife. Plus a few dollars for any beverages I would have while on this adventure. I was giddy with excitement as I have not been able to even keep my own hops alive let alone harvest someone else’s crop.

The weather was gorgeous to say the least, and the hour drive was traffic-free. You might be thinking you yourself, “You drove one hour to get hops?”… My answer to you would be “Wouldn’t you?”. Those who know me on a personal level know I would travel 4 hours for just one 1/2 pint pour of beer (i.e. Rusty Chain Vienna Lager from Flying Bison). Because this is what I do! I might be addicted to fermentation. But I’m only an addict if I admit it!

Back to my story, I arrived way before the Empire Farm Brewery taproom was open, to avoid any crowd there might have been later on. Upon arrival, I walked the entire grounds, well as much as I thought might be public space, saw a few gardens, and then eventually went down to my version of Eden, the hop garden. Most of it had already been harvested by the Empire Farm Brewery crew, but there were plenty bines lying among the weeds on the ground. It was like Christmas for me. My eyes widened, my heart started racing, and my face was infiltrated by a smile so big, the Cheshire Cat would be jealous. Here I found my Nirvana, my Utopia. Copious amounts of hops for me to gather!

I have always been one to reuse, recycle, up-cycle, and now, collect the left-behind hops. I see some hops here, I see some there, I see the hops everywhere! I take my utility knife out and start cutting bine after bine… I could have plucked the hops cone off, but instead, cutting was faster, AND because I wanted to try to cultivate some clippings, I just cut. I was selective, I didn’t want to get them all, just in case there was another individual as excited as me to get this gift of Cascade Hops. I just pray there is that person or persons out there that will make great use out of this opportunity. It would be a shame to have the hops go unharvested, unused, and left to wither away.

Cut, cut, cut. I stuffed my bag full! Now that I’m done, I feel a sense of peace. My body in the sun and soil, My mind in nature and the wonder of what will brew from these hops. I’m feeling thirsty at this point…. but that taproom isn’t open for another hour. Beer, beer, everywhere but not a drop to drink. Looks like I will have to come back to Empire Farm Brewery during “drinking hours” and thank them properly for the gift of hops.

When I got home, I spread my bounty out on the kitchen table and started plucking the hops cones from the bine… this took another hour. So after 2 hours worth of labor, I came home with a total of One Pound of luscious Cascade hops. Enough for about 2 batches of an IPA if I choose, or 3 batches of another style ale. Time to get brewing!

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