Michigan growers were hoppy with their production in 2017.
According to a report last week from Hop Growers of America, hops production increased by 153 percent in Michigan from 2015 to 2017. With 810 acres dedicated to the flowering plant, Michigan is the fourth largest state to produce hops.
Michigan’s hops acreage trails only Washington, Oregon and Idaho. The latter three together accounted for all but 2 percent of the 55,786 U.S. hop farm acres in 2017.
In the report, Michigan was reported to have had 320 acres in 2015, which rose to 650 in 2016. The state saw about a 24 percent increase in hops acreage from 2016 to 2017.
In Bridgman, Haymarket Brewery & Taproom gets the majority of its hops from those Northwest states. However, Brewery Operations Manager Nic Girouard said they still buy a portion of hops from Hop Head Farm in Baroda.
Girouard said he wasn’t surprised to hear Michigan hop acres have increased steadily the last four years.
“It’s great to be part of the great beer state,” Girouard said in reference to Michigan. “It’s a wonderful location to be along the lake. Plus, one of our owners has been coming here for years.”
Haymarket opened its first location in Chicago in 2011. The brewery picked up in popularity and branched to another location last year – this time in Bridgman along Red Arrow Highway.
Girouard said owners went with the bigger producers out west because Michigan wasn’t one of the biggest hop producers in 2011.
“With those contracts, you have to do them years in advance,” he said. “When we first opened, you had to forecast sales years ahead of time.”
That’s since changed as more growers have caught on to Michigan’s soil along the lakeshore. Girouard said Michigan has a favorable latitude and climate for hop growth. It has even drawn more malt companies to the state, Girouard said.
In 2017, Michigan grew more than double the 400 acres of fifth-ranked New York. The Hop Growers of America report detailed 24 other states’ statistics, with numbers ranging from 1 acre in Arizona to 200 in Colorado.
Analysts say the growth in hop farming correlates with an increase in craft brewing.
“From my point of view, I see it as a cause and effect from craft breweries,” Girouard said. “It’s agricultural. You get good growth years and bad growth years. But the majority of their business comes from the breweries.”
There are now more than 320 breweries across Michigan and about 5,300 across the U.S.
As a result, there are now 45 farms that grow hops in Michigan.
Kelly Vega, the pub manager at The Livery in Benton Harbor, said they also use Hop Head Farms for a specific beer.
The Baroda farm’s product is showcased in The Livery’s flagship IPA, called McGilligans. It holds a big hop presence by design, with hints of citrus and pine that are meant to balance a solid malt bill.
“We love local resource ingredients. We pull a lot of ingredients locally for our kitchen, so we thought it would be nice to do the same for this IPA,” Vega said. “We live in such a rich area as far as agriculture goes. That’s why there are so many wineries here, too.”
Michigan’s vineyards have done well, doubling in size the past decade to 13,700 acres. Michigan is the fourth-largest grape growing state, according to the Michigan Grape and Wine Industry Council. The state has 138 commercial wineries and is fifth in wine production.
Vega said the Michigan-grown cascade and chinook hops make their beer a popular choice.
“We chose them (Hop Head Farms) for a reason,” Vega said. “They boast the No. 4 cascade hop variety in the world.”
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