INDIANAPOLIS — A group of farmers and brewers met in the
Glass Barn at the Indiana State Fairgrounds to talk about ways to work together.
The event was held to help business owners brainstorm with
researchers and Extension specialists about how to make hop farming a viable
industry in the state.
Currently, Indiana brewers import hops. The meeting
emphasized that if more farmers grew inputs that could be used to make local
beer, more dollars could be kept in the state.
“Hopefully, this is the first of many meetings that will
start to happen between the farmers of Indiana and the brewers that we have
here,” said Jill Pritchard, program manager of diversified agriculture at the
Indiana State Department of Agriculture.
“This is a conversation that seems to have been bubbling
underneath the surface for a while now. The goal is to take a first step toward
identifying short-term needs and opportunities.”
Purdue University research assistant Natasha Cerruti is
leading hops research efforts in the Horticulture Department this summer.
Cerruti plans to study growing conditions, diseases and
pests, as well as costs, of growing hops.
“One huge issue is irrigation,” she said. “How much to
irrigate, when to irrigate, how often. Hops rot easily. It’s important to let
the hops dry out between watering. That’s something we’re going to look
Farmers expressed a desire for Purdue to provide chemical
analysis services of hops, spray schedules and budget sheets.
Brian Farkas, department head and professor of the Food
Science Department, said that many of these services may be available down the
road, but it will take time.
In the meantime, the Agronomy Department has made an offer
to hire a small grains faculty member who could assist brewers and hops growers.
“The brewing industry is growing massively,” Farkas said.
“There’s plenty of market out there. Everywhere you go, you hear people talking
about craft beers. It’s more than something to drink. It’s something to get
“People move to places like Indiana and North Carolina
because of the quality of life, and part of that is the products we produce.
Food science is where raw materials come together to turn into a final produce
for consumption. Now, we need to look at how we fit in with brewing.”
Farkas would like to hire another faculty member with
experience in chemical analysis. This person would work on analyzing hops to
The Food Science Department has the capacity to hold beer
sensory trials, as well as the possibility for a pilot brewing lab.
“We’d like to be able to put in a small-scale fermentation
unit — where farmers growing various grains and hops could do some analysis and
work with brewers on acceptability and quality attributes to help the industry,”
“From my experience, the biggest hindrance from the (hops)
industry growing and surviving is quality of hops.”
Michael Wilcox, economics and community development
assistant program leader at Purdue, also is working to make hops a feasible
“We’re starting up a program called ‘Rebuilding your Local
Food System,’” he said.
“The assumption there is that we had a local food system,
the system went away and we’re at a point where we import about 90 percent of
our food into Indiana, and we wind up sending all of our food elsewhere.”
Wilcox, who is a craft brewery supporter, would like to work
with others in order to develop Indiana’s beer industry. Other states, such as
Michigan, have more expertise in the field.
More meetings between farmers and brewers are expected to be
planned this summer. For more information, contact Pritchard at