ROGUE: WE GROW BEER
We first decided to grow our own hops during the massive global hops shortage of 2007 and haven’t looked back. 52 acres and 10 hop varieties later, we find ourselves with an opportunity for change. This year we will be ripping up nearly half of our fields to plant new and more modern varieties. These new hops won’t produce for another two years, and there’s really no guarantee they will produce at all, but that’s a risk you have to be willing to take when you grow your own.
FLIP THROUGH THE OFFICIAL CROP REPORT HERE:
HOPS GROW ON BINES NOT VINES
What’s the difference? Vines climb and grow upwards using tendrils and suckers while bines used downward pointing bristles to aid in their grip. Our hops are trained onto a material known as coir. This is composed of Sri Lankan coconut husk and we use it for two reasons: the material is perfect for the hops to latch onto and it is also compostable, producing little to no waste.
TERROIR OR NOT TERROIR: SOIL, CLIMATE AND LOCATION
The ground where we grow our hops, pumpkins, marionberries, cucumbers and garden botanicals has some of the best soil a farmer can wish for. It’s alluvial loam, a rich mixture of clay, sand and silt that was deposited here by floods.
Western Oregon’s famed rainy winters are great for hops, delivering moisture at the time when they need it most. What’s not so well known is that the summers here are mostly sunny and warm, delivering sunshine when hops are rapidly growing.
Rogue Farms is smack dab on the 45th parallel north. Not only do we get lots of sunny days in summer, we get long periods of daylight. From about mid- May to mid-July, the daylight stretches 15 hours and longer. This is perfectly timed to the hops’ growing season.
Last year we grew 10 varieties of hops on 52 acres of land. 5 acres yields an average of 7,660lbs of hops-thats about 79,664lbs of hops to brew with!
GROW THE REVOLUTION
Welcome to the Revolution Garden, a wondrous place blooming with over 82 different fruits, roots, botanicals and vegetables. Maintained by our very own Plant Whisperer Stacia, this garden provides us with experimental crops for our brewers to get creative with. This year we crafted three different beers inspired by ingredients grown right here in the Garden: Counter Currant, Rhubarb Schmubabrb and Marionberry Sour all started as an idea and blossomed into reality thanks to this small patch of dirt.
WHAT THE HECK IS A MARIONBERRY?
Great question - Here at Rogue Farms we are lucky enough to cultivate a rare breed of berries native to Oregon. Nearly all the marionberries produced in the United States are grown within a couple of hours from our farm. A cousin to the blackberry, these hybrid berries are larger and more flavorful than their parent plants. They also have another very special feature - they are prickless. No thorns means happy picking and a better harvest which ultimately means happy brewers.
This is a perfect example of a crop that started small in our Revolution Garden and proved to be worth the effort of trimming, training and maintaining every year. Our acre of Marionberries will be harvested by hand in late June and will be used to brew our Marionberry Sour.
Training marionberries is no easy task. Each plant requires individual attention from our gardeners to ensure proper growth.
The highly laborious process involves cutting the dry, dead floricanes that produced this years berries and carefully training the bright green primocanes to the two-wire trellis for next year’s harvest. The primocanes can grow over 20 feet long.
At Rogue Farms, we have the honor of carrying on the ancient art of beekeeping. Since 2012, our honeybees have pollinated and collected nectar from our marionberry, pumpkin, cucumber, lavender and Revolution Garden blossoms. They forage on our neighboring hazelnut, apple, plum and pear blossoms. These flavors capture the terroir of the farm to create the proprietary honey used in our Honey Kolsch.
Fun fact - There are three members of a honey bee colony:
Queen: Mother to all the bees in the colony. She is a fertile female.
Worker: An infertile female that performs the labor tasks of the colony including feed preparation; guarding the hive; feeding the queen, drones and brood; and heating and cooling the hive.
Drone: The male that starts out as an unfertilized egg. Its only purpose in the colony is to mate with a virgin queen. They live to mate with the queen, but only one in a thousand get the opportunity to mate.
GETTING BUZZED: AN INTERVIEW WITH ROGUE FARMS BEE KEEPER GEORGE
Why are bees so important to Rogue Farms?
Rogue Farms has always taken a very proactive approach to growing the very ingredients that make the beers and spirits so unique and delicious, as evidenced by the outstanding Revolution Garden at the farm. Keeping bees plays hand in hand with the success and quality of the garden and the ingredients used and experimented with behind the scenes by the Brew Masters. Beekeeping is becoming somewhat of a lost art; we at Rogue are doing what we can locally to keep the practice alive and well moving into the future. Pollination of the marionberries, pumpkins and jalapeños help produce some of the very best honey in the Willamette Valley. I really feel like, as important as the bees are to Rogue Farms, the Farms is equally important to the bees.
Can you talk about the relationship between bees, hops and brewing?
My personal favorite is the use of honey in beer, I am a sucker for honey beers. Hops to brewing is an obvious relationship. A lesser known, is the relationship of hops to bees. Hops do not require pollination, so how do they relate? The hops contain a beta-acid that has been found effective in controlling mites. The biggest challenge faced by bees is the Varroa mite. Of the many treatments available to the beekeeper to “treat“ for mites, this hop- derived treatment is a good natural tool to assist in controlling mite populations in a colony. We at Rogue will be undertaking some experimental work in extracting the natural chemicals from hops, in the hopes of helping with the mites. Exciting stuff so stay tuned.
What is the most important aspect of a healthy colony?
The most important aspect of colony health is the QUEEN. She is the key to everything. A good young healthy robust queen sets the tone and pace of a hive. Her ability to lay quality eggs and populate a hive with strong worker bees is the key to success or failure of a hive. The traits and genetics that she passes on our the building blocks of the hive and its characteristics. Such as genteelness, hive build up in spring, honey production and resistance to mites to name a few. We at Rogue have been using Italian queens for the last few years almost exclusively. Stay tuned as this year we are going to acquire a more diverse population of queens from various sources to diversify our genetic pool.
What can people do to help save the bee population?
There are a number of things people can do to help bees. Think early and late! Bees can always use help with plants that flower either early in the season or very late in the season. I try to plant mints, lavenders and clovers as ground covers wherever practical—anything with open type flowers. Blackberries are one of their main food sources, if you can leave patches of berries wild the bees will love them. Flowering trees offer a big bang for the space. Flowering cherry trees, pussy willows, maple trees, linden trees and locust trees are just a few that bees will find irresistible. Another often overlooked helping hand is water sources—fish ponds, bird baths and water gardens. Bees like to get a good drink in. And last but not least please
use sprays with caution if you must and always follow the instructions on the label.
SPRUCE GIN IS IN
You might not know this, but we all have Christopher Columbus to thank for transporting cucumbers from Haiti to the “new world” back in 1494. Since then they’ve been picked, chopped, sliced, pickled, crunched and most importantly, used to craft Rogue Spruce Gin.
Spruce Gin is cucumber-forward and made with ingredients grown here on Rogue Farms. It has notes of spruce and juniper, as well as subtle hints of ginger, orris root, citrus, angelica root and coriander. With 100 pounds of farm-grown, hand- picked, hand-peeled cucumbers in every batch, this unique gin captures the true taste of Oregon.