Saranac Sources Local Hops for Farm-to-Mug IPA
F.X. Matt Brewing Company's Saranac Beer has embraced New York State’s reemergence of hops farmers with a special “farm-to-mug” IPA made with local heirloom hops from Wrobel Farms, an organic garlic, heirloom hop and modern hop cultivator located in Bridgewater, New York, just outside Utica. The limited-edition wet-hop beer is the latest in Saranac’s High Peaks series, a line of small-batch, specialty craft beers in 22-ounce bottles. It is brewed with 12 varieties of locally grown hops, including six different varieties of heirloom hops dating back to the 1800s.
“Madison County used to be the hop capital of the country, and Wrobel Farms was able to save certain varieties; they kept transplanting them because the owner’s father thought they were pretty to look at. Then, five years ago, they started experimenting with planting hops,” explains marketing coordinator Meghan Fraser. “Last year they tried to grow enough hops to make a beer and we made half the size that we made this year. This year is the first bottling.”
“The ‘farm-to-mug’ initiative is an integral part of our brewing philosophy,” said Fred Matt, president of F.X. Matt Brewing Co. “Our success depends heavily on local support, and we are committed to maintaining these partnerships with our neighbors. Brewers in New York have a great opportunity to help revitalize the hop-growing industry that once thrived in the late 19th century, and we are willing to pay more to support that growth.”
Much like Lockport’s McCollum Orchards did with its first commercial hop harvest this fall, F.X. Matt Brewery invited volunteers to help pick heirloom hops this past August; over 200 helped with the harvest. “We think it’s fun; we had an overwhelming response when we asked for volunteers,” says Fraser. “We even had a cookout.” Wet hop beers, which use fresh-picked hops as opposed to dried pellets, must be made within 48 hours of hop harvest. The result, in Saranac’s case, is a mild, floral, and delightful ale with an intriguing nose of fresh citrus and honeysuckle and a clean, mouthwatering finish.
“We’ll continue doing it once a year,” says Fraser. “Wrobel doesn’t have enough of a crop to use year round, but we do save some of the hops and use them in other special projects, like our collaboration with Denver Beer Company, Continental Collide Rye IPA, which used Wrobel Farm hops and grain from Colorado.” Look for the Saranac Wet Hop IPA in local beer stores; it’s a great example of New York’s hop growing tradition in action.