Hop Crop Thriving in Hovland

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Susan Thompson of North Road Hops just up the road in Hovland, Minnesota has spent the summer growing a variety of hops for Voyageur Brewing Company. Amazingly, hops grow wild in our harsh northern climate and even other varieties will thrive as perennials. Thompson says, “The latitude of the hop yard on North Road is at the same measure on the map of most of the finest hop-growing sites around the globe.” Despite their heartiness, preparing for a superior crop has been a laborious undertaking. Thompson has amended the soil with 7-foot towers of peat from Meadowland, MN, and uses untreated white cedar from Big Falls, MN for trellises and poles. Because hops have an enormous appetite for nitrogen, Thompson applies fish emulsion to the plants (an excellent byproduct of our local fishing industry). Her main crops are Cascade, Centennial and Vojvodina hops. Cascade hops are a well-known and beloved workhorse of the craft beer industry, forming the basis for many pale ales, IPAs, porters and wheat beers. Centennial hops, sometimes called a “Super Cascade,” are prized for their balance of aroma and bittering content, and used in various ales and wheat beers. Vojvodina hops, native to Yugoslavia, are a growing star in the hop world, valued for their vigor, bittering properties and unique aroma of cedar and tobacco. Thompson is also experimenting with Crystal and Fuggle hops as future potential crops. A member of the Minnesota Hop Growers Association, Thompson is passionate about research, collaboration and making things grow. She says, “I appreciate the seasonal varieties a craft brewer is able to produce. Being able to be a part of both has been enormous fun. Think spring!”