By Nan Sterman
The story behind Homegrown Hops, Local Flavor for Local Brews starts a few years ago. My daughter called me just before my husband’s birthday. “Mom,” she said, “Groupon has an offer for a beer brewing kit – we should get that as a gift for Dad.”
Of course we should and what a dummy I was for not thinking of it myself! For decades, my husband’s work has focused on a tiny organism called Saccharomyces cerevisiae, brewer’s yeast. This is the yeast brewers use to brew beer and bakers use to rise bread.
Curt wasn’t making beer or bread though; he was in the lab looking at the internal signals that tell yeast cells when to divide and when to stop dividing. Since cancer happens when cells lose the ability to stop dividing, his work is basic cancer research.
Learning to Brew
The kit was ordered, delivered, wrapped, and presented at birthday dinner. Within a few months, Curt was spending Saturdays stirring a soup pot over the kitchen stove (and making a huge, sticky a mess). He graduated to the back patio and a 15-gallon steaming pot perched on the burner from a turkey fryer.
Not long after, he moved to a three-pot “tree,” each a 25-gallon pot with its own burner. The apparatus is so large that he moved brewing to the driveway. That’s what you see in our episode Homegrown Hops: Local Flavor for Local Brews
There are four refrigerators in our garage – one for fermenting and three for storing Curt’s award-winning beers. There’s a kegerator in the guest bedroom, too (thankfully we are solar powered).
Hops Come Next
I am not much of a beer drinker but being around beer and watching the process piqued my interest in hop plants.
I noticed some fledgling hops farms in the back county, so after doing some research, co-producer Marianne Gerdes and I visited one. It was a young planting so there wasn’t much to see yet.
Then, last spring, UC Cooperative Extension put on a hops growing seminar at the San Diego County Farm Bureau. The room was filled with hops farmers, would-be hops farmers, and backyard hops growers, too.
Back home, Curt tried his hand at growing hops. Turns out, he’s a much better brewer than gardener. That doesn’t mean he’s given up on backyard hops though. I’m just waiting for the day when my daughter calls him and says, “Dad, Groupon has a deal for hops rhizomes. We should buy some of those for Mom’s birthday so she can grow the hops for your beers.”
I just hope they remember to put a bow on the package.