Harvesting the Hops

The Edgar Farm on Rest Acres Road, just outside Paris, is in harvest season. They are one of Brant’s only hop farms.

Their hops are used in the production of their own craft brew with the Paris Beer Company. There are usually only three ingredients in craft beer: water, barley and hops. There are several varieties of hops, however, offering many flavours. There are seven different hop varieties growing on the 2.7 acres at the Edgar Farm.

“We have what is referred to in the hop industry as the four “c”s. We have Cascade, Chinook, Columbia and Centennial. We also have Newport, Vanguard and Triple Pearl. Triple Pearl is my personal favourite. It has a little tangerine kinda taste to it.”

Ken Edgar, Co-owner, Paris Beer Company

Edgar also explains, hops are known for being either alpha or aromatic varieties. Alpha varieties are typically found in lagers.

“The big beer brands typically just use a bitter agent which works as a preservative. We have our dual-purpose varieties which have a middle range…the aromatics are what you taste if you have a nice tasty IPA that bursts with either grapefruit or citrus. Most of ours are dual purpose.”

Ken Edgar, Co-owner, Paris Beer Company

The trellis system used on the farm, Edgar refers to as German-style. It reaches seven metres high and the hops hang from barbed wire. When pulled during harvest, the hops catch on the barbs and snap off at the top.

Once the plants reach their full height, they start to spit out side arms from the vine and flowers. Edgar says, these are female flowers as they do not have or want males.

“The little flowers become the cones. Inside the cone we get the libelin. Inside the libelin are the alpha acids and aromatics that we’re looking for.”

Ken Edgar, Co-owner, Paris Beer Company

“We bring out a crew of about three people to ride on a wagon, one drives the tractor. First we cut the bottom of the binds. Then we drive the wagon through, pull at the bottom, the top snaps off and falls into the wagon. Then we drive the wagon to the barn.”

Ken Edgar, Co-owner, Paris Beer Company

The wagon load enters the barn where the binds go into the harvester. The harvester combs all the leaves and cones off each bind, chops them up and separates the cones from the leaves.

“We take the cones, dry them, bail them and then run them up to pelletize them. When they’re pelletized, we freeze them. For us they’ll last us the year and we make beer out of it.”

Ken Edgar, Co-owner, Paris Beer Company

It required seven days for the farm to complete their second harvest. Edgar says, there is a lot of work put into harvest, but their biggest labour component of the year comes in the spring.

“At the beginning of the spring we crown the plants so the dead material from last year is gone. Then we hang the wires so we have an elevated lift. We take six vines, we train three per wire, and watch them grown up. It takes a little bit of training to make sure you get the best three per wire. There’s around three thousand plants, so we have six thousand wires – that’s a lot of training.”

Ken Edgar, Co-owner, Paris Beer Company

The Paris Beer Company owners, along with their Beer Master, and three generations of the Edgar family have been involved in this year’s harvest.