Hop Farms Take Root in Colorado

News by | Sep 2014 | Issue #92

Not long ago, a Pale Ale brewed with Colorado-grown Centennial hops would have raised eyebrows. But that’s exactly what the state’s brewers guild made for the 2014 Craft Brewer’s Conference in Denver.

“Colorado may be known as the Centennial state,” says Ron Godin, Ph.D., an agronomist with the Colorado State University Extension, “but we are not the Centennial hops state.” Dr. Godin, who began growing research hops in 2002 to test variety and yields, helped introduce hops farming here in 2009. To date, Colorado hops production accounts for approximately 100 acres, 70 of which are on the Western Slope of the Rockies. Dr. Godin knows of only two Western Slope farmers who grow Centennial hops.

“Centennial’s yields are much lower than, say, Chinook—at best 1,500 pounds per acre compared to 2,000 pounds,” he explains. “But brewers like the hop from my experience.” Fortunately, rising prices for Centennial help to offset lower yields.

According to Dr. Godin, the value of Colorado hops will surpass $1 million in 2014. This in a state where the largest hop yard is just 18 acres. Compare that to farms in the Pacific Norwest with thousands of acres. But disease-free fields, which can mean up to 30 years of maximum yields, give Colorado an advantage.

Dr. Godin notes that most of Colorado’s growers planted virus-free hops from Summit Plant Labs in Fort Collins.

“Selection of pathogen-free planting material can certainly delay infestation of virus and viroid diseases,” explains David Gent, a research plant pathologist with the USDA.