We’re excited to announce that we’ve started a small hop farm at Jester King! We just finished planting 500 hop rhizomes in rows out in the pasture to the south of the brewery.
At this point in time, hops remain the one beer ingredient we can’t source locally. We can get water from our well, grain from Blacklands Malt in Leander, Texas, wild yeast from the land and air, and fruits and vegetables from central Texas. But we can’t purchase hops grown in our region. Hops remain the missing piece of the puzzle when it comes to creating a beer with 100% native ingredients. We, along with other growers just starting out in our area, hope to change this.
We’ve decided to focus initially on three varieties of hops — Neo1 (a breed of Neomexicanus), Saaz and Perle. We selected Neo1 because of its heat, drought and pest resistant qualities. Neomexicanus grows in the wild in west Texas and New Mexico, so we thought it would be a good candidate for our soil. As far as selecting Saaz and Perle, our Head Brewer Averie Swanson writes, “We use these two hop varieties frequently in our brewing, as we feel that the sensory profile of these hops complement our mixed culture very well. Grown here at Jester King, I do not expect these hops to smell or taste anything like what we are used to buying now. They will be entirely unique to this place and we are very excited to see what attributes they possess.”
Going off of Averie’s last point, we’re content to see how these hops adapt to our environment. We’re not trying to create a particular flavor/aroma profile. In trying to make beer that’s a product of the land around us, we’re interested to see what direction our environment takes our hops, and by extension, our beer.
In the follows weeks, we’ll setup trellises for the hops as they grow. Pedernales Electric Coop was kind enough to give us some old telephone poles to help with this. Planting hops brings us to near the end of busy planting season at Jester King. It started back in the fall with our tree planting day, continued onto vineyard planting this winter, and will end with the planting of annuals this week. Farmer Peppy could use an extra pair of hands with the annuals Friday afternoon, so if you're interested in helping volunteering, please email email@example.com
We’re also excited we’re not going it alone as far as growing hops commercially in central Texas. Last summer, we had the chance to visit Wildseed Farms in Fredericksburg and see what Dave Steinbrunner has going on with his Organic Hops Research Garden. Dave has an impressive young hop farm that’s already producing some really nice hops. We’re excited to support Dave and other local hop growers as we strive to make commercial hop farming in Texas a reality.
If you’d like to see our hops up close and learn more about them from Farmer Peppy, we now offer a farm tour every Saturday at 2pm. Cheers!