Hops production migrates from Fraser Valley

KAMLOOPS, B.C. — British Columbia’s Fraser Valley was a major hop growing region up until the 1970s.

However, growers left the area around Chilliwack because many of the sites were not suitable, said Ian Matthews, production manager at Hops Canada near Kamloops.

Several Fraser Valley growers moved to the Yakima Valley in Washington state, which is now the largest hop growing region in the United States.

Producers found similar conditions in Kamloops and came north to establish the first hop farm in the area in the 1930s.

Drivers on the Trans-Canada Highway just east of Kamloops will pass an abandoned tin-clad building that was once a large hop processing plant. Molsons grew hops on the surrounding land until the 1970s.

“Hops like lots of water, but they don’t like to get their feet wet.” Matthews said. “The sandy loam soil here is ideal for hops.”

Hops Canada planted and harvested 65 acres last year and expanded to 220 acres this spring.

A rhizome starts the perennial plant, which can produce for more than 20 years.

A cord suspended from overhead wires trains the quick sprouting vine to grow up to six metres high.

Harvest starts in August and can continue until October. The entire plant is cut off at ground level and at the support wire. The cones are stripped and separated from the leaves at a central facility and then kiln dried and packaged in bales to be held in cold storage.

Further processing grinds the hops and forms them into pellets. Brewers add the pelleted hops to beer for flavour, aroma and bitterness.

The United States pulled ahead of Germany last year to lead in world hop production with more than 45,000 acres producing more than 36,000 tonnes, according to the International Hop Growers Convention.

China, the Czech Republic and Poland round out the top 5.

B.C. leads Quebec and Ontario in Canada with some acreage also planted in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Manitoba and Alberta.

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