We built and planted this hop yard in May 2016 as part of a 3-year pilot project in conjunction with Virginia State University, Rappahannock Electric Cooperative, the Virginia Cooperative Extension Agency, local farmers, and friends. Our project objective is to study hop growth productivity in different locations across the state to better inform other aspiring hop growers on optimal plant varieties and growing conditions. We are also observing the types of insect and molds that may threaten productivity and effective ways to control them. Our yard is 0.6 acres in size and has over 450 hop plants. In our inaugural year, we brewed two batches of beer using our hops. Next year we hope to have enough to at least in part support our brewery and other local brewers’ hops needs. If successful, we will consider expanding this operation and make it a key element of Bald Top Brewing’s operations.
We currently grow 5 varieties of hops, each having unique characteristics in terms brewing use, alpha acid content, and essential oil and flavor characteristics given to our beers, commonly described with terms such as floral, fruity, grassy, spicy, earthy, rooty, citrusy, woody, herbal, flowery, etc. We selected fairly common and versatile varieties, as noted below, which are frequently used in our beers and others’ across the US:
An all-purpose hop with lower alpha acid levels (4.5-7%), a citrus aroma and flavors of grapefruit and spice
A bittering hop with higheralpha acids (11-13%) and a piney aroma with mild spicy and raisny biterness flavors
A bittering hop with high alpha acids (11.5-17%) with a slightly pungent, resiny flavor and mild aroma
An all-purpose hop with medium alpha acids (9-13%), herbal aromas and spicy and very bitter flavor
A bittering hop with high alpha acids (13-17%), very aromatic and a pleasant bitterness
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