Stefano Daneri, Project Manager of Good People Brewing Co.’s Adopt-the-Hops Program

Last Call by | Jul 2015 | Issue #102

A collaboration between Good People Brewing Co. and Jones Valley Teaching Farm has managed a counterintuitive feat: spreading beer education to adults and food education to youth at the same time. Good People, now the oldest brewery in Alabama, and Jones Valley, which teaches inner-city youth about food issues, both opened in Birmingham in 2008. What started as a loose partnership between likeminded businesses evolved, and now with Good People’s Adopt-the-Hops program, the brewery crew—from the sales team to the brewers—shows up at the farm every month to cultivate their crop of whole-leaf hops. Eventually, the hops will be used in a beer to benefit the farm and, says project manager Stefano Daneri, the greater Birmingham community.

How did idea for Adopt-the-Hops come to be?
We’re all about incorporating local ingredients in our beer, and we also really liked the idea of literally going back to the roots of our product. We’re now able to have a tangible relationship with the beer-making process by working to grow hops at the farm.

What does the Good People team do at the farm?
The farmers at Jones Valley have created a detailed work schedule for us, making each workday a step in the growing process and the learning process. During the past several months, we’ve learned about planting, propagation, cutting and replanting rhizomes, mulching and bed maintenance, the importance of trellising, and managing the shoot growth of propagated hops. … The work isn’t easy, but our staff has indicated that we’re all growing a deeper appreciation for the ingredients in our beer.

What impact do you hope this program has on the Birmingham community?
It’s our hope that the Adopt-the-Hops collaboration can serve as a model for other businesses and organizations in the Birmingham area. … By giving back, we like to think that we’re contributing to the progress of this great city, and we hope that others jump on board to do the same.

What impact has the program had on the brewery team?
We’re really excited that this program will provide our brewers the chance to work with fresh whole-cone hops that we aren’t always able to obtain. … It’s been a teambuilding experience. We’ve all had our hands in the dirt, and I can guarantee that we’ll all enjoy the end product together.

What role do you think craft breweries can play in their communities?
Craft breweries have become local gathering places all over the country. We’ve just named our renovated taproom “Community Hall” because that’s essentially what it is—a place where people can talk to each other over a beer, build relationships, make plans and dream up ideas. As a host for these modern-day salons, we’re setting the tone for the future of our community.

What’s a funny moment that stands out from the project?
About a month ago, an event was held at the farm and a photographer was there to capture it. A picture of the hop wall was taken and later posted to Facebook with the caption “Pepper Wall.” We all had a good laugh. However, it was a lesson to all of us that we’re not only educating ourselves through this project, but we’re also tasked with educating those around us.