Hops in New York

Beer!  Now that I’ve got your attention, let me tell you a little story about Hops in New York.  Did you know that historically, Otsego, Madison, Schoharie and Montgomery counties were the epicenter of hop growing in the United States and that the best hops were thought to come from Otsego County?  Family farms all over the area were growing hops and some were becoming rich doing so.  Special barns were built to dry and store the hops before being transported to market.  I currently have a client who has an historic farm near Cooperstown and the remains of the old hop barn are still standing.  Hop growing in New York would peak in the middle of the 19th century and due to series of events, a blight and competition from mechanized farms out west, the hop industry all but disappeared by the early part of the 20th century.

Jump forward to the present and the rise of craft beers and the microbrewery movement, combine that with the desire by consumers to purchase more locally grown products and suddenly hop growing has reemerged in New York.  In 2011, New York State amended the “Farm Brewery Law,” which gave farmers the right to brew beer so long as 20% of the hops came from New York as well as 20% of the other ingredients.  This has led to a flourishing craftbeer industry in New York and from my own experience, I’ve seen 3 new breweries open up in Binghamton in just the last 2 years.  As I drive through Otsego County in particular, I’m constantly reminded of this trend, as I see more and more stands of hops being grown.  I even had a client buy some acreage in Cortland County who has already planted a large area of it with hops.  It’s great to see abandoned farmland being brought back into production!

So if you’re considering buying land and wondering about all the possible uses, I say, think beer and tap into hop growing!

— Frank Myka