February 25, 2004

New Beer Developed

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The Ithaca Beer Company introduced Double India Pale Ale as its newest product yesterday. It stands out from the rest in that it is the first commercially produced beer made entirely with barley hops grown in New York State in 50 years.

“This accomplishment is important because we’ve demonstrated that not all that is new is bad,” said Duncan Hilchey, Cornell’s senior extension associate of the development sociology department’s Community, Food and Agriculture Program. “The past can make an important contribution to the present and the future. If we scan our history, New York might have other agricultural gems like hops.”

Hilchey, who is also a member of the board of directors of the Northeast Hops Alliance, helped facilitate the production of the ale by the Ithaca Beer Company. The Northeast Hops Alliance is a group of farmers and brewers that formed in 2000 with the goal of revitalizing hop production in New York State.

Once one of the world’s leading producers of hops — the main ingredient in beer — central New York’s crop began its demise in the 1930s, leading to the end of production in the early 1950s.

Recently, however, Rick Pedersen, the owner of Pedersen Farms of Seneca Castle, N.Y., began to grow several varieties of hops on a half-acre plot of his property. These hops, all purchased from growers on the West Coast, reached maturation last fall, and Pedersen sold his crop to the Ithaca Beer Company.

“I’ve done my experiment, I’ve proven that hops can be grown in New York State,” he said.

Despite the publicity the new beer has brought his brewery, Dan Mitchell ’00, owner of the Ithaca Beer Company, sees this new product as more of an investment in New York State than a profit-making venture.

“I’m doing my part,” he said. “This isn’t about the Ithaca Beer Company as much as it is a brewer stepping up and making a beer with New York State hops. It’s nice press, that’s always good. But really, I’d be just as happy to fall into the shadows.”

The Double India Pale Ale is highly nostalgic to many central New York farmers.

“It’s great,” said Keith Eisenman, whose family was the last hop grower in Madison County before production with local hops ceased in 1951. “It’s a lot of hand labor and it’s a lot of work. You’ve got to wait three years before you get a crop, so it’s got to be somebody who’s really willing to take a chance.”

For the people involved in this new product, the possible benefits of increased visibility of locally grown hops are exciting.

“It’s important to get it out in the market and get people to understand that it could be a starting point of where we could be going,” Mitchell said. “I’d like to see all New York State breweries incorporate hops grown in New York State into their beers.”

To begin with, the Ithaca Beer Company will produce about 45 barrels of Double India Pale Ale, with each barrel containing two kegs.

Archived article by Owen Bochner