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Craft brewers harvest first hops crop

Article and photos by Patte Smith

There are more than 400 craft breweries in Colorado and an abundance of home brewers – such as local 39 W Home Brewers. Friends and fellow cyclists organized the brew club a few years ago and eagerly accepted Surrey Ridge resident Kevin Klimek’s invitation to help harvest his first crop of hops.

Surrey Ridge gardener Kevin Klimek did not realize when he decided to grow hops a few years ago what a success it would be. “I thought it would be fun to try. It took a few years for the vines to wind up the trellis, and wow, what a bumper crop this year!” laughed Klimek.

As a first-time grower of hops, Klimek chose to grow Centennial hops explaining, “I figured I’d have good luck in the Centennial State.” The Centennial hops are popular in craft brewing, along with other common varieties like the Chinook and Cascade hops.

Hops are climbing perennials and a must for craft brewers. It is used primarily as a bittering flavor, as well as a stability agent in beer. Inside each flower or cone are tiny glands with a yellow powder called lupulin that is the source of the bitterness, aroma and flavor in craft beer.

Klimek’s abundant crop was good news for his fellow cyclists and beer brewing buddies – they eagerly showed up at Klimek’s home with 5-gallon buckets to harvest the hops. Happy to share, Klimek was plucking the hops with the rest of the team – Rob Davis, Sean Pechon and his wife Kristine and niece Ellie, Dave Comer and Jim Denier.

Photo of girl harvesting hops

Enthusiastic, Ellie (8) shouted “jackpot” when she peeked out from between the abundant plants.

When brewing beer, four key ingredients are needed – water, malt (a germinated and kilned cereal grain, primarily barley, but also wheat and rye), yeast for fermentation and hops that is bitter and balances out the sweetness, adds aroma and flavor to the beer.

A few years ago, these beer aficionados established their own brew club – 39 W Home Brewers, with 40 or so members who hail from Castle Rock, Castle Pines and other surrounding areas. Not only knowledgeable, the members also have a blast when getting together.

“Almost all of us this summer did a tour of all the breweries in Castle Rock,” grinned Rob Davis, club president. “Hopping on and off the town trolley, we went from one brewery to another yakking, laughing and tasting the brews.”

The club has regular meetings and special events throughout the year.

Interested in growing hops next year? Visit www.homebrewersassociation.org/how-to-brew/how-to-grow-hops/. To find out about 39 W Home Brewers, email Rob Davis at radavis@gmail.com.

Photo of Jim Denier and Dave Comer inspect the hops

Jim Denier and Dave Comer inspect the hops to make sure the flower is ripe and ready for harvesting.

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