All posts by Gorst Valley Hops

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Highly Effective Habits of Successful Hop Growers

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I’m often asked “what makes a small scale hop grower successful?” Passion? Vision? Love of craft beer? While those attributes can help I’ve found that they generally get in the way and cause delusions that end up driving your enthusiasm into the ground deeper than your trellis poles. But I think these habits are also important for any small business, especially agriculture-based enterprises. So To help answer some of these questions I built this list that encompasses the habits of very productive and quality-focused growers (at lease in our group). And obviously as all good dictators proclaim, I reserve the right to change, alter, omit or expand at my pleasure (It’s good to be the king…in my on mind). #1….

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What’s the Deal with all the Attitude?

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So I’ve been quiet (believe it or not, it can happen from time to time) as we build our business and spend a little “me” time on the internal operations and I have noticed a few trends I can’t resist commenting on. Again, hop growing is gaining a bit of steam after the first wave of failures decayed back into the earth.  It seems to go in short cycles where people looking to make a bunch of money jump into hops only to find there isn’t a bunch of money in hops without the requisite work part of the equation.  They get pissy and like to point fingers at everyone but themselves and leave a wake of flaming crap for the rest of…

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Gorst Valley developing database on state beer hops

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Wisconsin State Journal – Madison, WI Gorst Valley Hops already has reignited small-scale hop farming in Wisconsin, selling its hops to places like New Glarus Brewing Co. But now, the company plans to get locally grown hops even more street cred. James Altwies, president of Gorst Valley, headquartered near Mazomanie, is developing a voluntary database that will work to ensure quality control among small hop growers. And while he’s starting with hops, Altwies envisions this database being applied to any crop, building confidence in locally produced food and expanding the buy-local movement. “Our analysis shows the biggest barriers to central food production and consumption … is confidence and quality systems,” he said. Gorst Valley Hops expects to receive $30,000 in…

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Wisconsin Foodie makes a stop at Gorst Valley Hops

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In this episode of Wisconsin Foodie we travel from Sauk County, WI to Barvaria, Germany to profile one of our favorite ingredients – the Hop. First we visit Gorst Valley Hop farm and meet up with James Altwies to get a tour of the farm and also some insight into the resurgence of local Wisconsin Hops. Then we take a trip of a lifetime and tag along with Dan Carey of New Glarus Brewing as he travels to the Hallertau region of Bavaria Germany to source hops for some of their brews as well as meet the farmers responsible for growing the best Hops in the world.

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Paddling upstream on a river of hops

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As one might imagine, paddling upstream on a calm waterway might not be too difficult but trying to drag a canoe the wrong way up rushing rapids is not only exhausting but also dangerous.  You’re more likely to drown than make any progress.  One could say the same thing about new ideas in a river of convention. Buddha said “An idea that is developed and put into action is more important than an idea that exists only as an idea.”  I think that says more about the will of the individual and their conviction of their beliefs than the implementation of the idea.  Maybe Arthur C. Clarke struck a chord closer to ideas in real life; “New ideas pass through three periods: 1) It…

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Irrelevant Rural America?

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Straight from our esteemed Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack as reported in December 2012. Granted, the Secretary was speaking about the apparent loss of voice that rural Americans are experiencing in the political arena and not whether or not rural America actually exists (although I’m sure for much of our representation…it is the vast emptiness between airports). Secretary Vilsack was speaking about the shrinking of the rural population and rural economy over the last 25 years as the socio-political clout of urban centers take control of the soap box. That would have been all fine and dandy…but I kept thinking about his observation (right or wrong) and soon enough I found myself looking through his lens at my own observations specifically…

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Acres mean nothing…let’s talk about YIELD

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Maybe it’s just human nature to exaggerate…present an augmented image of one’s self in an attempt to seem more attractive, more successful, more intriguing. It is pervasive in our culture and many others. Some believe it is a marketing tool and others just can’t help themselves. Whatever you call it and however you justify it…it drives me CRAZY! So as always we will bring this rant back to hops. the craft beer industry is experiencing a second “boom” and a new category for brew has emerged; the nano brewer. I would imagine they are in a similar position to small hop growers in that the only comparison is to the larger brewer on the next block and so they might…

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Ponderings on… THE DROUGHT OF 2012

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I appreciate the polite interest in our company from those who are not very involved with all things hop and beer, but the single question that is really getting old is…”So, are you concerned about the drought affecting your crop?”No.  Not at all.  What drought?OF COURSE IT IS IMPACTING OUR CROP!  Jeez!Okay…with the gripe out of the way, the observation is relevant.  But why such a drastic drought?  And what’s with the sudden heat?  This is just a fluke, right?  Climate change takes place on geologic time-scales, doesn’t it?Believe me…I’m not a band-wagoner.  I ask pointed questions about generalized comments that usually gets me labeled as cynic, arrogant, etc.  But I think we all need to be a bit more critical of the “information”…

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Re-focused and ready for trouble…

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As I’ve stated in the past, I’m not that great of a blogger. I always find more and more things to fill my time, even to the point of distraction for what NEEDS to be done. I’ve always wanted to feel like my work, the things I’ve done/doing, have a positive impact on others and I continue to engage every opportunity for fear that willfully declining might do harm. I think we all have a sense that we can do everything and anything but what I’ve come to find is I cannot do either with any sort of focus. Narrowing my focus allows me to direct intense effort and create a well-polished, robust, and sustainable program, hop yard, machine, etc….

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Small-scale hop growing a big business

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Wisconsin State Journal – Madison, WI Owners of Gorst Valley Hops continue to make small-scale hop growing a big business. This month, the company will ship its first 12 small-scale hop harvesters — the only machine of its kind, they say, made to mechanically harvest hops grown on 10 acres or less. Most farmers growing hops on less than 50 acres are forced to harvest by hand, said James Altwies, president of Gorst Valley, headquartered near Mazomanie. While it takes six workers an hour to harvest from two bines (the vines on which hops grow), Gorst Valley’s harvester, operated by three people, can harvest 30 to 60 bines an hour. The Bine 3060 — a combined hop picker and sorter…

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