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Locally-grown hops add flavor to craft beer

One family farm in the area is bringing something new to the state of Iowa. 

Cedar Falls Hops Company started growing five different varieties of hops two years ago. The specialty crop was originally used to preserve beer for long voyages, but today, it adds flavor and aroma to beer. 

Keri Byrum and her husband said their friend was doing research on hops, and then they decided to grow it here in Iowa.  

"Things kinda just snowballed," Byrum said. 

Hops are typically grown in Northwestern states, such as Idaho, Washington and Oregon. However, Byrum said they’re making their comeback to the Midwest.

"Well, we’re being completely biased. We have the best soil in the whole world here in Iowa," Byrum said. "We think we can grow hops just as good or better than the people in the Northwest who are doing it."

Now, growers like Keri and her husband are starting to see the potential for this industry. 

"It is new, but we think we have a great product here," she said. 

According to the Byrums, making these specialty crops is no easy task. 

"It’s a very labor intensive crop. You do it all by hand," Byrum said. "There is very little with growing hops that you do from the seat of a tractor."

The family takes 16,000 strings and pins each one into the ground at the start of every spring. 

"The plants grow up on this trellis. It’s an 18 foot tall trellis," she said. 

The goal is for the hops to reach the top of the wire. 

"We plant them once," Byrum said. "They’re a perennial, so they come back every year."

After one year of growing, the hops are ready for harvest by the end of June. 

"The individual hop is removed from the vine, it gets dried, then it gets turned into a pelleted form," she said. 

Those pellets are then sent to local breweries. 

"Hops will add the flavor and the aroma to the beer," she said.

Now, Keri and her family are excited for their new adventure. She said they’re constantly learning and adjusting along the way. 

"It’s pretty amazing to see a forest full of hops out in the middle of corn and bean fields," Byrum said. 


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