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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GVH Passes Food Processing Plant License Inspection

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Gorst Valley Hops is now a licenced food processing plant, after passing inspection from the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP). According to DATCP, this makes us the first licensed hops processing facility in the Midwest. We are very proud of the fact that our growers and brewers can rest assured that at GVH we take quality control and cleanliness standards extremely seriously. Check out the official press release here.

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High value crops…what makes them high value?

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So what makes a crop high value anyway? And if they’re so high value, then why aren’t all farmers growing them? Both good questions, and the way I see it, the “value” in high value generally means the crop has an accepted higher price per unit area…i.e. apples, cherries, hops, etc. But as in all balanced systems, there must be a proportional input as well. Unfortunately that input is usually high start-up costs, longer period to profitability, and greater exposure to production risks, be they climatic or market. And some farmers only grow these crops in a conventional monoculture no different than typical row crops or livestock systems. True, there is some efficiency gained in focusing on one crop system…

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Defining Ourselves

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I thought I should take a minute to address how we define ourselves and our intentions, actions, interactions, etc. I believe it is best to be vocal about who you are and what you do, and in doing so we craft our own image. Remember…if you don’t define yourself, someone else will. Okay, having said that, who is Gorst Valley Hops and what do they want? I’ll skip the elevator speech…you can find that boilerplate on our website, FB page, cut sheets, etc. Gorst Valley is a group of friends who all possess a focused expertise across all manner of disciplines bringing their considerable experience and observations to bear on a single topic: Hops. Uh…wait a minute. Hasn’t that been…

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Furthermore and Gorst Valley Hops announce release of an all-Wisconsin hops beer

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The Agri-View – Madison, WI The brewers at Furthermore have teamed up with the farmers at Gorst Valley Hops to bring an India Pale Ale (IPA) with a uniquely Wisconsin accent…Hopperoblic India Pale Ale. This new selection is being masterminded by Furthermore Beer in anticipation of a late October release. While Furthermore is known for nontraditional beers, the only deviation from a traditional India Pale Ale in this beer is the focus on using only hops that have been grown within 20 miles of Furthermore’s hometown in Spring Green, instead of the Pacific Northwest, Europe or New Zealand. Gorst Valley Hops has provided a selection of Nugget, Cascade and Mount Hood hops to meet Furthermore’s needs in a pelletized form…

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It may be local…but is it quality?

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When we little guys are playing in the sandbox with the big boys we simply cannot compete on volume or afford to be exposed to the whims of crooked commodities pricing for our goods. So we have to focus on other value-added attributes that can set us apart from the cacophony, especially in a specialty market like hops. So what are our options? Many folks jump right to “organic” as a mechanism of adding value and hopefully justifying the prices we need to stay solvent. but the marketing juggernaut has turned the principle of organic production into a buzzword and it has lost some of its meaning (not to mention the market for organic hops is iffy at best). Okay…so…

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Bringing hops production back to Wisconsin

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Wisconsin State Journal – Madison, WI TOWN OF BERRY — Hop trellises stand tall in this western Dane County valley where harvesters have spent about 10 hours every day this week picking and sorting the largest crop yet for this local hop operation outside Mazomanie. “It’s been a very good year,” said James Altwies, director and horticulturist for Gorst Valley Hops. “A very productive hop year.” Altwies launched Gorst Valley Hops in 2008 by bringing together a group of friends willing to take an ownership stake in the company — each with an area of expertise who could address specific elements in the process of reintroducing hops as a cash crop in Wisconsin. They include an engineer, a chemist and…

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