Hops are hot: Ohio hop growers invite visitors to hopyards

Shari and Jeff Bailey
Shari and Jeff Bailey, of Auburn Acres, look forward to sharing their knowledge with visitors on July 20. (Hayley Lalchand photo)

CHAGRIN FALLS, Ohio – Hops are distinctive crops that catch your eye as you drive past them: tall, vibrant green vines that bend and twist, jutting up towards the sky, planted in rows that seem to sway in the breeze like curtains. Ohio is home to over 25,000 hop plants, which produce flowers or cones that are primarily used for beer brewing, imparting beer’s quintessential flavors.

“People drive by and say, ‘What in the world are these people doing with these telephone poles and giant locust poles? What are they growing?’” Shari Bailey recounts joyfully.

Shari and her husband, Jeff, own Auburn Acres, a hopyard in Chagrin Falls. The couple started growing hops in the fall of 2015, initially for Jeff’s homebrewing hobby. Now, the couple has an acre of five varieties of hops, comprising over 900 plants, and sells to local breweries.

Auburn Acres is one of four hopyards participating in this year’s annual Statewide Hopyard Open House, which will take place on July 20 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The event is organized by Ohio Hop Growers Guild, and invites brewers, growers and the hop curious to visit a hopyard to learn more about the unique crop, including how terroir impacts the flavor of beer, the journey from soil to brewery and lessons from growing.

This year, visitors can expect to learn more about how the warm spring and summer temperatures have impacted the plants. The Baileys and Paula and Merritt Brown of Barking Squirrel Farms both agree that this has been an unusual year for hops, with both farms seeing early flowering and cones.

Shari said that early flowering is neither good nor bad — the farms simply must keep a close eye on the hops to determine when they should be harvested. She explained that samples are sent to a lab to ascertain if the plants are ready to be harvested, and if breweries want fresh hops for brewing, they are kept in the loop about harvest times.

Barking Squirrel Farms, based in Lisbon, planted their first hops in 2017 and recently expanded their hopyard to include seven varieties and over 900 plants. The Browns were inspired to start growing hops after seeing a hopyard while on vacation in Michigan. Paula serves as the secretary of OHGG and looks forward to welcoming visitors to the hopyard.

Shari, vice-chair of OHGG, is also passionate about advocacy and outreach when it comes to hop growing. Events hosted by Ohio State University and OHGG were crucial for her farm’s success, she says.

“We learned amazing things from all the other hop growers before we actually decided to put a plant in the ground. We went to hopyard open houses, learned what [other growers] were doing, and tried to decide how we could make it our own,” she said. “We decided to open our hopyard and be a part of the tour a few years ago. It’s fun sharing what we do and bringing people here.”

Barking Squirrel Farms
Curtains of green adorn the hills of Barking Squirrel Farms. (Hayley Lalchand photo)

Open house locations

Auburn Acres
10638 Taylor May Rd
Chagrin Falls, OH 44023

Barking Squirrel Farms
14265 Seigler Rd
Lisbon, OH 44432

Zachrich Hop Yard
4850 Mechanicsburg-Sanford Rd
Mechanicsburg, OH 43044

Ohio Valley Hops
8371 Ohio 48
Maineville, OH 45039

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