Michigan is now home to almost 150 microbreweries. Combine that with the local foods movement, and Michigan is seeing an expansion of its hops production as well.
F or 2013, Michigan State University estimated we had about 200 acres of hops planted in the state. A year later, that number is likely more than 300. Experts say it's being driven by microbreweries and the desire of brewers to source as many local ingredients as possible.
A t Brewery Terra Firma near Traverse City , Brew Master John Niedermaier says finding locally grown ingredients is a driving force.
"I've got a long list of buddies who are hop growers," said Niedermaier. "They're all great guys,and if we're going to spend money on hops, I'd rather spend it locally."
Eight years ago, Michigan State University held a workshop in Traverse City all about growing hops. Among those in attendance was Brian Tennis. Tennis now runs New Mission Organics, an organic hop farm in Leelanau County. He's also part of the Michigan Hop Alliance.
W hen there's talk of a hops shortage, Tennis says it usually because there are one or two varieties that brewers and customers are favoring at that moment.
T ennis says some varieties often in short supply are proprietary, varieties that farmers have to pay for the right to grow. Other times, the varieties are simply not well suited for Michigan's climate.
It takes two years for a new planting of hops to be ready to harvest, so growers are often gambling which varieties will be needed 24 to 36 months out.
F or the most part, John Niedermaier says the future looks good for both growers and brewers in Northern Michigan.
"I think the potential is unlimited, and I think the product that we've been producing here is every bit as quality oriented as those hop yards that have been established for hundreds of years in Europe," Niedermaier said.