Water, yeast, malted barley and hops – four ingredients that when properly combined create an awesome beverage that I may or may not be enjoying at the moment. Most of us are familiar with the first three items on that list. The last one? NCSU is experimenting with whether or not it could be a viable production crop in North Carolina. With all the craft brewing in the state is seems like a logical next step but what exactly are hops and will they grow here?

Hops are the female flower clusters (commonly called seed cones or strobiles), of a hop species, Humulus lupulus. They are used primarily as a flavoring and stability agent in beer, to which they impart a bitter, tangy flavor, though hops are also used for various purposes in other beverages and herbal medicine. Hops were cultivated continuously around the 8th or 9th century AD in Bohemian gardens in the Hallertau district of Bavaria and other parts of Europe. [SOURCE]

The tour at NCSU’s research hops yard gave us an up close look at several test variants of hops – some that were successful and others that weren’t. It was a quick lesson in the challenges of growing hops and some background on the potential for production success. A nice tour despite missing the lecture – we were late and missed the planned talk but got a near personal tour of the yard with the person who wrote the original grant to fund the study. And they say the early bird gets the worm – the class being full actually worked in our favor this time.

Overall the tour was great – Cara and I got some great pictures and we learned a few things about a very interesting plant that we did not know. I don’t know if hops will be the next big cash cow in North Carolina. Based on what we learned we have a long way to go to get the plant production up to where it is a viable large-scale. That means we need more research and the subsequent use of more hops to fund that research. So help move this forward by drinking more beer. It’s your duty as North Carolinian to help this economy any way you can.