Get Hoppin’, Virginia!
By: Tiffany Patrick, Extension Intern
Let’s talk about Humulus lupulus, otherwise known as Hops. If you begin a conversation about Hops, there is a good chance that very few people actually know right off the bat what you are talking about. When you then explain by saying, “the stuff they use in beer”, they probably understand. However, what many people do not understand is that Hops aren’t just used solely in beer production. In fact, they didn’t even start out in beer.
Around 77-79 A.D, Humulus lupus became known as a plant grown in the wild. It wasn’t until around 736 A.D that they began being cultivated by humans for use. In the beginning, the Romans used then as ordinary bitter vegetables, as well as figuring out some of the medicinal uses for them. They used the Hops to treat anxiety and restlessness, as well as insomnia. For the insomnia, they would fill a pillow with the Hops and the person would sleep on it and have no trouble going and staying asleep. For other medicinal purposes, it was later used as an antibacterial as well as an antispasmodic, which was used to treat an upset stomach, as well as menstrual cramps. The Cherokee also used it for medicinal purposes; as a sedative as well as an anti-inflammatory.
I’m telling you all of this because I am currently working as a research assistant at Virginia State University in Petersburg, Virginia, and my research for the summer is Hops. I am currently a second semester sophomore with a major in Agriculture Education. I am here as an intern for the summer, funded by the Carver-Piedmont Agriculture Institute, working with the Culpeper Extension office as well as Bald Top Brewing Co. doing research in the Hop yard. My hometown is Abingdon, Virginia in Washington County. I went to school at Holston High School in Damascus, Virginia and that’s where I fell in love with Agriculture. I was fortunate to have amazing Ag teachers, Sarah Scyphers and Lawrence Cox, who helped me further my interest in FFA as well as being a big part of greenhouse work. I have been in 4-H as well as FFA my whole life, so I have grown to see the importance of it all.
Hops are a growing industry here in Virginia. There isn’t much market for them yet, but they are common among the Craft Brewers around the state, like Bald Top. They don’t grow quite as well in this part of the country as they do in the Northwest, as well as some in the Northeast, but with the right conditions and management, they will grow well enough to produce. In my opinion, it is a great industry to be a part of. It is growing, but statistics show that it has grown steadily over the last 20 years, and will continue to grow. So if you have a green thumb, or you are interested in becoming a part of the Craft Brewing industry yourself, Get Hoppin’!