Hops Makes A Comeback In Wisconsin


Hops, a crop that was once common in Wisconsin, is making a comeback.

Wisconsin was one of the nation’s biggest producers of hops- one of the main ingredients in beer – in the 1860s, but other states have since stolen that crown.

The crop is slowly making a comeback with the growth of microbreweries. To meet the needs of those microbreweries, a few producers are diversifying their farming portfolio by laying aside an acre or so for the plants.

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Amy Wiegand of Sparta is one of them: She planted her acre and a half of hops three years ago. This year she’ll be able to sell some of them, but probably not enough to see a profit yet.

“Maybe next year,” says Wiegand. “This year I guess we’ll just be closer to [breaking] even.”

A lot more growers are needed to meet demand in Wisconsin. Rich Joseph – the vice president of the Wisconsin Hop Exchange, a Madison-based cooperative – says the exchange will help sell about 8,000 pounds of hops. A medium-sized brewery, he says, uses 30,000 to 50,000 pounds of hops per year.

“There are probably 50 medium-sized breweries in the state of Wisconsin,” says Joseph. “So yeah, we’re a long way off.”

Joseph estimates there are no more than 80 hops growers in the state. But he says with hops in demand and market prices so agreeable, the number will likely grow.