Trapp Lager isn't just brewing beer. Allen Van Anda and Johannes von Trapp are also brewing an idea -- to bring hop farming back to the Northeast.
• Trapp Lager: Dream of Johannes to replicate Austrian beer
The plant that's integral to brewing was cultivated in upstate New York before the days of Prohibition, but the law that banned alcohol in the 1920s -- not to mention a tendency for hops to develop mold and mildew in the damp Northeastern climate -- put an end to hops as a cash crop around these parts. Trapp Family Lodge is hosting the 2010 Winter Hops Conference in conjunction with University of Vermont Extension on March 26 to look into whether it's feasible to grow hops in and around Vermont.
Hops are most commonly grown in Europe and the Pacific Northwest -- the more arid regions to the east rather than the moist coastal areas -- and typically grow vertically along fences or poles reaching several yards in the air. Rosalie Madden, a crop and soils technician for UVM Extension in St. Albans, said shortages in recent years have led increasing numbers of brewers to consider growing hops on their own.
There are reasons for optimism, according to Madden. She said mildew-resistant hops have been developed in recent years, and brewers are encouraging research to find out how viable it is to grow hops in the Northeast and how large one's hops operation has to be to make a go of it. Madden said presenters at the conference will include a hops researcher from Quebec, a New Yorker who has been growing hops upstate for about a decade and a hops breeder from the Pacific Northwest.
This story appeared on page B1 of Friday's Burlington Free Press