I got a very interesting email from the man who donated the hop rhizomes to the Sulphur Creek Farm a year ago. He and his wife had been growing some hops in his backyard in east Nashville for his own homebrew. When he had to move to Chicago, he decided to dig up the hop rhizomes and donate them to his friend Eric Wooldridge, who manages the farm. The background behind the hops is pretty amazing. Here is his email to us:
"Hi! I'm hoping this finds its way to Linus.
My family is responsible for the new batch of hops in the Bells Bend
Preservation Ale. I saw your blog post and talked to Eric about them and
was glad to hear they did so well. I thought you might like to know the
story behind them. My grandparents bought a 25 acre
farm in Smithsburg, MD in the 1950's from some 7th day Adventists, who in turn
had bought the place from the original owner in the 1930's (it was built
around 1900). When they bought it, it had an extensive orchard and the
hops in question growing. My grandparents weren't beer drinkers
and replaced the hops with wine grapes in the 80's. Luckily, my uncle kept some growing at his home in Brandywine, MD. My wife and I
moved to Nashville in 2005 and bought our first house in East Nashville.
We were excited to have a yard and are homebrewers, so one of the things
we had to have were those hops. We kept them going and made several
batches of quality homebrew from them until last fall. We knew we were
moving to Chicago and entering apartment living for a couple years, but wanted
the hops to keep going. I just happened to read about the first
batch of Preservation Ale and saw a perfect place to keep our hops until we
could have a yard again. I got in touch with Eric, and the rest is history.
As for the type of hop, it is unknown. My uncle sent some plants
off to a botanist in Oregon that has a special interest in pre-WW2 American
hops back in the 90's. He wasn't able to attribute any specific name to
them, but wasn't surprised by it, because he said there are dozens of wild and
imported hop varieties throughout New England that have grow since colonial
times or were native and saw a surge in propagation during Prohibition.
So, that is the story of the "new" hops, I thought you might
like to know."
We still have some bottles of Preservation Ale left for sale at the brewery. The proceeds from this batch are going back to the farm for more conservation work and to continue to grow more hops. Now that I know the story behind the hops, it makes the beer taste even better! Come and get some this weekend before it sells out completely!