Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Missouri-Grown Hops Could Flavor Craft Beer

Hops growing in a test plot near Bradford, MO.
Kyle Spradley
Mizzou CAFNR
Hops growing in a test plot near Bradford, MO.

ST. JAMES — While small, craft breweries pride themselves on being hyper local and producing high-quality beers, there is an essential ingredient — hops — they can’t get locally.

That could soon change.

Hops are a flower used in beer making, with different quantities of different varieties shaping the flavor and aroma. They grow best in arid climates with short days. The long days and high humidity of the Midwest make it difficult to grow them in Missouri.

Difficult, but not impossible, according to Patrick Byers, a horticulturist with the University of Missouri Extension. He recently finished a three-year pilot program to assess the feasibility of widespread hop production in Missouri.

The results were mixed.

Patrick said the limited varieties that could grow in Missouri, combined with the expense, make it unlikely a craft brewer would get all of its hops from local growers, but it still could use some.

“If a craft brewer is interested in making a unique, seasonal-type brew that really reflects local conditions, then they may be interested in sourcing Missouri hops,” Byers said. “Recognizing that each year is going to be a somewhat unique experience, such as a vintage would be on a wine.”

The weather in Missouri would make hops more inconsistent from year to year, making it much harder for brewers to have a consistent flavor with each harvest.

But a brewery like Public House Brewing Company, which has locations in St. James and Rolla, might still welcome local hops. While Missouri hops won’t replace the hops in the flavors in its standard repertoire, it could be useful for limited runs of special brews.

“I think that would be the thing that would be interesting about this idea,” said Public House owner Josh Stacy. “Maybe it’s just an anniversary-type thing, where we are going to bring in the load that year and potentially try something with it.”

St. Louis Public Radio

Stacy said the majority of the hops he buys are from the Pacific Northwest.

“Washington and Oregon have the right climate to grow hops. And in terms of buying in the U.S., it’s really the best option for the highest quality and the most consistency,” Stacy said.

But he said he is considering growing hops on land the company owns behind the brewery, or maybe working with local farmers.

Even if that happens, it will still be a while before local hops end up in his beer. It can take hops three years of cultivation to produce a usable crop.

Widespread interest in local hops among the state’s 140 craft brewers would result in the crop making up a tiny slice of Missouri’s agricultural output.

Follow Jonathan on Twitter: @JonathanAhl


Copyright 2020 St. Louis Public Radio

Jonathan Ahl reports from the Rolla Bureau for St. Louis Public Radio. His duties also include covering central and southern Missouri for Harvest Public Media. Before coming to St. Louis Public Radio in November of 2018, Jonathan was the General Manager for Tri States Public Radio in Macomb, Illinois. He previously was the News Director at Iowa Public Radio and before that at WCBU in Peoria, Illinois. Jonathan has also held reporting positions in central Illinois for public radio stations. Jonathan is originally from the Chicago area. He has a B.A. in Music Theory and Composition from Western Illinois University and an M.A. in Public Affairs Reporting from the University of Illinois at Springfield. He is an avid long distance runner, semi-professional saxophonist and die-hard Chicago Cubs fan.