Palisade Organic Hops Farm produces booming crop in Grand Valley
Hops is not only an ingredient for beer, but it’s also used for many other things.
In the Middle Ages, beer had a low-alcohol content, so it was used as a safer alternative to untreated water.
Hops are antibacterial and antimicrobial.
A typical hops plant grows annually for almost 20 years.
It’s also used in herbal medicine as a treatment for anxiety, restlessness, and insomnia.
It’s a cousin of the cannabis variety. (No, THC is not in it.)
There are at least 30 different kinds of hops.
Breweries use hops in a variety of forms, including wet, dried, liquid, or pelletized.
There is almost nothing more refreshing on a hot summer day than taking a sip of a cool microbrew. Stop and ponder what goes into the beer. Although a beverage may not taste “hoppy,” it’s a key ingredient to most brews.
Where do those hops come from? Well, if it’s a Colorado Native-brand beer (or one of several other regional microbrews), hops likely came from Grand Valley’s own Palisade Organic Hops Farm — located at 3607 G Road.
David and Karen Pinnt, of Mesa, have owned the farm since 1991. After their sons grew up and moved out, it stood empty. Then in August 2009, the Pinnts decided to put the field to work again by producing organic hops. They now harvest an estimated one ton of hops every year.
According to the Pinnts, there are many varieties of hops (and most beers have a variety of hop types in them). At the farm they grow three types — crystal, chinook, and cascade. Colorado Native, which is brewed in Golden, Colo., uses all of the chinooks and cascade hops in a variety of its beers.
Crystal hops are available for bulk purchase, they added.
Hops is technically the female flower grown from the Humulus lupulus plant. It’s used as part of the flavoring and stability agent in beer.
The growing process is year round and never stops, the Pinnts said. From wintertime prepping to summertime harvesting, Palisade Organic Hops Farm workers (usually family members, up to five people at a time) toil daily to provide fresh hops to their customers.
Karen explained weather is a huge factor throughout the whole process, which makes crops early, on time or late.
In mid- to late-winter, compost and fertilizer is applied to the fields. They string the entire field, which is a little more than four acres, with a coconut-core twine (18 feet in the air by hand).
The growth of the bines (yes, it’s not a typo; a bine is a climbing plant) starts around April and plants are trained to grow on the twine clockwise. If wrapped wrong, it stops the growing process. While growing, the Pinnts continue to fertilize and manage pests.
Summer solstice is usually when the bines get to the top and start putting on side arms and cones. They trim the plant once to promote growth of a second arm to grow the hops (also known as cones).
Once the cones are predicted ready, 50-100 grams are sent to a testing facility to measure levels of alpha and beta acids, storage index, and dry matter (key indicators the hops are ready to harvest). They then determine when to pick; if a certain hop is ready, they begin the process of taking down the crop.
To do this, up to four people use a machine called a crow’s nest to cut the bines down. They then put the bines through a machine called a hopfenpflucker, (originally from Germany) through which the hops are plucked from the bines and put on a dryer. The hops spend about eight to 12 hours in the dryer, and moisture levels are checked often.
When the moisture is deemed acceptable, the hops are dropped onto a conditioning station, which evens out the moisture and temperature of the crop.
Eventually the hops are bagged and baled, then shipped to Colorado Native or other buyers throughout the state.
“It’s really work intensive,” Karen said.
Palisade Organic Hops Farm also uses leftover hops to make soaps to sell at the Palisade Farmer’s Market.
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