After my review of the Bouncer beer inline filter, a comment popped in from a reader. I noticed a cool website address attached to it…so I decided to investigate a little bit. I got totally hooked! Here was a guy who is in my state, and doing a hopyard! So, I decided to contact him. Jeff Stannard of Stone Hard Hopyard was kind enough to respond. His website, starterhops.com is all about hops. So let’s get to know him a bit!
Hey Jeff – Thanks for agreeing to an interview!
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
My name is Jeff Stannard and I live in Schaghticoke, NY which is about 20 miles north of Albany, near the mouth of the Hoosick River at the Hudson. I am the owner of Stone Hard Hopyard (www.starterhops.com), a nursery dedicated to the propagation of hop plants.
How long have you been homebrewing? What got you into it?
In 2013, I decided to learn how to grow hops after the passage of Gov Cuomo’s Farm Brewery License, which allows a small brewing operation legal status on condition a percentage of ingredients are NY agriculture products. I got hops that first season, so I decided to try my hand at homebrewing to learn the flavors of the hops I was growing. Both hop growing and homebrewing were two tasks undertaken at the same time in an act of folly.
What was your biggest homebrewing mistake or let down? Why?
I made an awful dunkleweizen a few years back that sticks out to me. The bottles were all bombs- and I gave them all away. Recalling free beer after distribution is not an easy task. I attribute infected yeast and too much corn sugar as the problem. Haven’t had another issue quite like that beast. Keep your gear clean and sanitized!
What are you most proud of with homebrewing? Why?
There are so many great things I attribute to this hobby. Creativity and art. Precision and measurement. Passion and experimentation. I am most proud of the bad ass IPA’s I can crank out from my dirt-floor garage. We live close to the Vermont boarder too so the elusive “sick of the trip” pilgrimages to get freshies has long passed for me. I try a lot of clone recipes of our favorite IPAs.
How often do you brew? What was your most recent brew? What’s on deck?
I try to brew about 25 times a year, in 5 gal batches. We just finished a Helles on Friday night (stepped on my thermometer and broke it). 2 different IPAs are next. I’ve produced 117 brews to date, 6 batches of cider. I quit kombucha.
You said “we”. Is it just you, or a group that brews together?
I have one brew homie that’s there for most brew nights, and a rotating cast of about 3 others. We call ourselves The Tirannical Ruffians. I’m not a club member but I enter competitions.
What does you wife think of all this?
All my equipment has overtaken a significant portion of the basement. I’ll leave my wife and daughter to answer what they think of the madness I’ve unleashed.
What do you find as your best place to go for information/resources on brewing, and for hops growing?
I’m self-taught in both brewing and hop growing from what I learned online. There are so many great sources of info out there. Today, my top three destinations for brewing is brewersfriend.com, /r/Homebrewing, and brulosophy.com. For hops, my regional go-to is the northeasthopalliance.org
What got you into the hops growing business? How long have you been at it?
This will be 5th growing season in 2017. In 2014 I perfected cloning hop plants from cuttings, and in 2015 I sold them via mail order on eBay. Last year I also sold on eBay but we expanded more here regionally because there is an inherent demand for New York State grown hops. The paltry acreage/harvest across the entire state could probably be consumed by Saranac alone. So as an entrepreneur, I saw an opportunity to help others establish new and expanding hopyards with plants already acclimated to our environment. Rhizome season is so short in Spring many miss out. With plants on the other hand, their selling season can stretch into early September.
I see that you have shared some recipes on brewersfriend.com – do those recipes include your own grown hops?
A couple have. Most of my wet hops went into batches before I really got into using Brewersfriend.com back in October.
What would be your best advice for a brewer who is looking to grow and harvest their own hops?
Don’t underestimate how much water hop bines can consume! My advice? If you are a brewer, find a friend or partner who has a farm, with a field, next to a pond or stream. A backyard arrangement is relatively easy to maintain (space far enough apart you can mow around!). To scale up to an acre+ in size, do your homework and price out how much your new infrastructure will cost. And then I’ll sell you your plants to stick in the ground.
Anything else you would like to add?
You can only become a better brewer with continued learning. Tackle different issues until your proficiency rises to the level you can move on. My last great frontier is fermentation temp control, I’ve still got the buckets on the floor in the basement. But understanding mash pH, hop utilization, salt additions, grain properties, yeast preferences, keg PSI, temperatures at every step, etc can only improve your finished product with each new batch.
Awesome! Thanks so much for the insight! If you need any hops starter plants, check out starterhops.com
for some updated stock!