Cal U. to develop research hop yard for beer

Scott Beveridge
Observer Reporter

California University of Pennsylvania will be experimenting with hops production as the craft beer industry continues to expand in the region.

The university was awarded a $72,500 state grant to grow a “trial garden” of hops, focusing on sustainability, disease management and growing conditions.

“Cal U. looks for opportunities to educate our students while also serving as a resource for the region’s business community,” university spokeswoman Christine Kindl said.

“We are pleased to receive funding for a project that has the potential to benefit local farmers and brewers, as well as our current and future students,” Kindl said.

At least four craft breweries have opened in recent years in Washington County, and one local brewery owner said it can be challenging to find the right hops to make certain beers.

“I would definitely support it,” Washington Brewery co-owner John Burgess said.

He said he had approached Washington & Jefferson College about experimenting with hops to create a local supply of the flowers, which are an essential ingredient in beer production.

“It’s important to know the chemical makeup of the hops,” Burgess said.

Some of the undesirable hops are easy to find, he said.

Brewers also join what is known as a hop-buy list where they commit to purchasing them in specific quantities over multiple years, Burgess said.

Cal U.’s proposal was among a dozen projects to receive a share of $791,412 from the state Liquor Control Board to increase the production of and promote malt and brewed beverages in Pennsylvania.

The National Beer Museum Development Group was awarded a $59,700 grant to create a permanent exhibit in Pittsburgh to tell the story of Pennsylvania beers.

The Cal U. hop yard will use local high school and university students to design it and also come up with marketing and business plans to supply local hops to breweries.