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From field to glass

By Staff | Aug 12, 2013

JOHN BARLOW, of Clear Lake, grows hops for brewing on a small scale and utilizes whatever is available to allow the hops to climb.

NORTHWOOD – The Practical Farmers of Iowa wanted to introduce the subject of growing local grains for the brewing of beer and what better place to present this subject than at a brewery.

The July 18 field day site was at Worth Brewing Co., located in Northwood, the county seat of Worth County located along the Iowa-Minnesota state line.

Worth Brewing is owned by Peter Ausenhus and his wife Margaret Bishop. They opened their brewery on St Patrick’s Day 2007.

Peter Ausenhus describes the brewery as “one of the smallest licensed breweries in the country.” It brews beer in batches of 10 gallons at a time. It would be hard to believe there is a smaller licensed brewery, he said.

Beer has four ingredients, Ausenhus said, malted barley, hops, water and yeast. Other grains such as oatmeal, rye, corn and wheat can be substituted for the barley, but have to be malted before they can be made into beer.

PETER AUSENHUS, of Worth Brewing Co., in Northwood, explains his brewing process to attendees at a demonstration of brewing with local grains sponsored by Practical Farmers of Iowa

John Barlow, of Clear Lake, has been home-brewing beer since 1994, making 12 to14 batches each year.

In 2006 he started growing hops for his own use. Hops are a perennial and propagated by rhizomes, Barlow said.

Barlow describes his experience in growing hops as “seven years of trial and error.”

It is the female flowers of hops, called cones, that are used for brewing beer, he said.

Hops have been part of beer brewing for more than 1,000 years to provide bitterness to offset the sweetness of malt sugars.

They are also a preservative.

Hops require a loamy, well-drained soil, 120-day growing season and 15 hours of sun daily.

Because hops can grow one foot a day, they require lots of space.

A trellis system is used by growers to support the hops that grow on bines, which are slightly different than vines.

There are typically 1,000 bines in an acre.

Hops are susceptible to downy mildew, verticillium wilt, nutritional deficiencies, hop aphids and spider mites according to Barlow.

Hops are harvested when they are the consistency of paper while on the bine starting in mid- to late-July for the Centennial variety and late-August to early-September for the Cascade variety.

Once harvested, hops need to be dried. Commercial growers will heat the hops to 140 degrees for eight hours.

Bowman said his experience has him drying at 95 degrees for 48 to 60 hours.

After drying, hops need to be protected from oxygen, warmth, and light to prevent deterioration.

Commercially, hops are processed into bales or pellets.

Pelleted hops sell for $12 to $18 a pound for the Cascade variety and $16 to $28 a pound for the Centennial.

Sixty-one to 65 million pounds of hops are produced annually in the states of Washington, Oregon and Idaho.

John Barlow processes his hops by vacuum sealing and freezing them.

Barlow said he raised 3.62 pounds of hops in 2008 with his best year of 2009 when he grew 8.3 pounds.

Worth Brewing buys Barlow’s excess hops.

Peter Ausenhus uses only a few ounces of hops for each of his 10 gallon batches of beer.

Ausenhus said he has had local farmers inquire about growing grains for his brewery, but once grown, the grains have to be malted and the nearest place that can do the malt process is in Shakopee, Minn.

Ausenhus said he’s heard of a Mason City business looking into malting grains on a smaller scale, but has not made the decision to start the business.

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