It’s not every day that you get to impact your local craft beer scene in a hands on sort of way. What a fulfilling and rewarding feeling you get when you do have an opportunity to give back and volunteer your time and energy. Recently, I had the pleasure of helping Sunny Brae Hops Farm in Carlisle, PA plant their second season batch of hop vines: 1,400 little baby hop plants to be exact! But I didn’t do it all by myself. I was accompanied by a team from Troegs Brewing Company (including one of the owners: John Trogner), Sara Bozich (Local Entertainment Writer & Ambassador) and the owners of Sunny Brae Hops, Adam and Diana Dellinger.
The farm is just 2 years old and now has expanded to cover 2 acres with the following hop varieties: Cascade, Centennial, Chinook, Nugget, Comet and a trial of two types of Cluster. It’s a beautiful site seeing the rows of hops in this tranquil, rural setting. Fresh air. Sunshine and no electronics. Well. Except for my camera and cell phone to document the day. But I did disconnect for hours and it felt great.
The hops when harvested will be used in a select few scratch beers by Troegs and will also go to smaller area breweries yet to be determined. So look for more info on that in the next few months. I can’t wait to try a brew with hops that I helped plant. Grow little hop plants, grow!
There was certainly no rest for the weary on this day. Temperatures soared to 90 degrees and we weren’t afraid to get down and dirty digging and planting. We all had a great time joking around and conversing while working. Some of us even carved our initials in the row of hops we planted. It was a proud feeling even though my carving skills are lacking. I ended up with a hand full of splinters and a bloody knuckle. But it was well worth it!
Once finished, we were all a bit hungry and sun burnt. Luckily for us, Chef Christian and the culinary team at Troegs arrived with a 3 course, farm-style picnic lunch and ice cold Cultivator Helles Bock and 717 Collaboration Ale that was brewed for Harrisburg Beer Week which wrapped up May 2, 2015. And, for those of you who have had the pleasure of tasting Chef Christian’s creations, you know what a special treat this was. Everything is made from the freshest, local ingredients… a true farm to table approach to the food. I can’t rave enough about his culinary skills. I’ve been sort of a fan girl since discovering him at Brew 22 years back.
At the end of lunch, Adam Dellinger made a toast to our efforts and rewarded us with a Sunny Brae Hops t-shirt and a special taste of his single hop IPA that he brewed using last years harvest. The experiment is that every year, he’ll brew the same exact recipe, using the same exact hop plant and see how the taste changes as the hop plant matures each and every year. What a great idea. Will definitely be back next season to have a taste of year two.
More Photos: Troegs Brewing Co. Facebook Page
Out with Sara: Read Her Experience
Sunny Brae Hop Farm – Year 1: By Colleen N.
UPDATE: THE HARVEST
It didn’t take long for our hop seedlings to shoot up towards the sky some 16-20 feet tall. Twisting and turning up the guide rope as they grew over the past three months. It certainly was a beautiful site on this mild summer day. Gobs of ready-to-pick hop clusters hanging from each vine row after row after glorious row.
A whole army of folks arrived from Troegs Brewing Company, led by co-owner, John Trogner. Sara Bozich returned bringing along her Intern Jimi Werner (who happens to also work for Troegs). The lot of us got started around 9am and continued into the late afternoon only to stop for a feast of a lunch prepared by the Kitchen & Events Team. They completely rocked it. We were nourished with smoked turkey legs, slow roasted pork, Troegs Dreamweaver infused watermelon, cheddar biscuits, roasted veggies and pickled slaw. And, I can’t forget the thirst quenching Troegs Hop Knife Harvest Ale and Sunshine Pils.
The best thing about the whole experience?
The hops we picked were whisked away back to Troegs Brewing Co. in Hershey, PA to immediately go into a brew. The exact beer being brewed hasn’t been announced. But, I look forward to tasting the fruits of our labor.
Take a look at a few snaps from the harvest:
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