New York farmers taking advantage of craft beer boom

Local News

Just like making wine — making beer is very much a farm-to-bottle industry. So it should come as no surprise that the surge in craft brewing has impacted local agriculture.

Gro-Moore Farms is growing perennial hops in its two and a half acre plot, and the farm shows no signs of stopping.

The hops have sprouted thanks to warmer weather in April.

“We’re just now getting to the point where we’re at some kind of an optimum yield,” said George Moore, a hops farmer at Gro-Moore Farms.

Moore says the main reason he is in business is because of a state law forcing local craft brewers to use 20 percent New York hops and other grains.

“They’re required to buy 20 percent New York State products to put in their beer,” said Moore.

Genesee Brewery is on a much larger scale so they can source their crops from around the world, but mostly in the U.S.

“Hop growing has recently expanded in the U.S.,” said Mike Mueller, Genesee Brewery’s brewmaster.”At one time it was all Pacific Northwest. Now it’s becoming more prevalent in Michigan, New York, and other states in the east.”

Most farms in New York just don’t have the size to work with Genesee, at least for now.

“Most of the growers right now haven’t put in the infrastructure for large scale production, but that’s growing very rapidly,” said Mueller.

In the end it’s not how much, but how good.

“Just because you’ve got hops isn’t good enough,” said Moore. “‘You have to let people know you have them, and you have to have a certain amount of quality, and be able to prove your quality.”

All local breweries must source no less than 90 percent of their grains from New York State by 2024 if they want to keep their license.

The new legislation was modeled after the 1976 Farm Winery Act. This law spurred the growth of wine production in New York State, including the creation of 261 farm wineries –tripling the number of wineries.

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