Hoppy Valley Farm, Dry Town Hops partner with discovery of new hop

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POWNAL — Hoppy Valley Farm and harvesting company Dry Town Hops are partnering to trademark a new indigenous hop plant after it was found in New York by the harvesting company.

Based in Argyle, N.Y., Dry Town Hops processes and harvests hops, which function as the bittering ingredient in beers, on local farms. When the team found the indigenous hops growing wild, they decided to send the sample for analysis to the University of Vermont laboratory. When the results came back, they were amazed.

"The brewing values were off the charts. They [UVM] had nothing in the DNA base that was similar to the hop," said Peter Hopkins, the owner of Hoppy Valley Farm.

The partnership between the two companies began when Hopkins volunteered to help Dry Town Hops get the project going after their previous success with wild hops.

"They've taken something they found, that was growing indigenous on the farm in Pownal and brought it back to life. There are brewers using it, it's a great thing," said Jason Lloyd, the administrative manager and co-founder of Dry Town Hops.

Hoppy Valley Farm and Dry Town Hops hope to get these new hops "out of the ground" and start growing them on the farm as well as cloning them to increase the number of plants they produce on an annual basis.

"In a few years, we'll be able to sell this yet to be named hop, as well as the roots so that other hop growers can grow these as well. It will be a proprietary variety," said Hopkins.

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Projects such as Advancing New York's Hop Industry with Unique Varieties and Quality Assurance have been collecting feral hops growing on local farms and sending them for DNA analysis in hopes of finding unique varieties. The hops are also analyzed for disease resistance.

The first cultivated hops were introduced into the United States from Europe by the Massachusetts Company in 1629 and by the late 1700s, New England became the dominant American Hop growing region.

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New York hops gained prominence, but ultimately met their demise in a mildew blight in 1910. According to Hopkins, some of the hops from the 18th and 19th-century farms are now growing wild on the farms.

"To find a hop that blows people away is a great piece of luck. We're really excited because this is a new hop that no one has ever used before," said Hopkins.

The farm relocated two years ago from land along Route 7, and has just harvested its second successful season on their new land. They specialize in heirloom hops that are found in Vermont and Massachusetts.

While the plot of land is smaller than the previous, Hopkins said that they intensified the planting and have almost twice as many hop plants.

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Hoppy Valley Farm and Dry Town Hops have yet to name their new discovery.

"I'm excited to bring something back to life. These things have been lying dormant for who knows how long," said Lloyd.

The farm is also well known for their condiments that feature their home-grown hops. The small condiment fridge off of Route 7 was installed six years ago when Hopkins was looking for a project to fill in his extra time in retirement.

"You can't do too much with hops in the wintertime," said Hopkins.

After the food business took a dive in February, Hopkins admits that they were close to discontinuing. Now the farm sells products at the Hoosick and Bennington farmers markets.

"Were able to get back into farmers' markets. People are outside, they're not stuck in a store. They can be six feet distance. It fits the times even though it's a very small piece of business," Hopkins said.


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