Researcher, extension educator, Ph.D. student and self-proclaimed craft beer connoisseur, Bergefurd, from Wilmington, Ohio, has been studying the impacts of hop growth in Ohio for the past seven years. Bergefurd has been researching the best growing practices, how to start a hops operation and the local Ohio strains of the specialty crop.
Bergefurd is a two-time graduate of The Ohio State University’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences and is currently pursuing his doctorate in agricultural and extension education.
His interest in Ohio’s hop industry started on a late night in 2012, after a full day of extension conference programs. In a hotel bar, he and entomologist Mary Gardiner, Ph.D., questioned the industry’s lack of presence in Ohio. In no time, the pair’s current project was born.
Seven years after the initial research began, Bergefurd is using his findings to study Ohio-specific breeds of hops.
“Before Prohibition, Ohio was a top producer of hops,” Bergefurd said. “They would transport hops in open-air train cars, so now you can find wild hops growing from 100 years ago along old train tracks. Mother Nature has done the genetic selection for us.”
The insight gained from working with land-owners to identify native hop yards led Bergefurd to analyze the wild hops for uniqueness and brewing characteristics.
“Each kind of hop brews a little differently,” Bergefurd said. “They give a different taste to the final product. We think we have two new strains that are native to Ohio, but that’s not confirmed yet.”
Spider mites are too small to see with the naked eye and hide under webs they weave. These factors make them a real challenge.
Welty had a solution. Phytoseiidae, or “fast white mites,” as Welty calls them, are natural predators to the spider mite and do not eat hop leaves. When the fast white mites were released into a hop yard, the spider mite population was stunted, but it wasn’t worth it.
“We had several grants that covered our project, but if the growers had to pay for it themselves, it would be pretty expensive,” said Welty. “If I were worried about anything, I would worry about downy mildew.”
Dan Schaffer, lead brewer at Land Grant Brewing Company, has firsthand experience with Ohio hops, specifically those from Bergefurd’s research plots.
“We’ve done wet, fresh hops with Ohio State,” Shaffer said about Bergefurd’s hop crop.
When hops are called green, wet or fresh, they were harvested and immediately brewed. Hops are typically dried and pelletized before going to brewers, but in the late summer months, when the days are long and hot, a green hop goes into bright and refreshing beers.
“We are looking forward to more. I was disappointed we couldn’t do one this year because it gives a very unique character,” Shaffer said. “That’s where Ohio hops really have room to grow. To do a green hop, it has to be at the brewery within 48 hours of them being picked.”
Jessy Woodworth Celeste Welty