A few years ago, longtime friends Shawn Carson and Andrew Conn were discussing how the local restaurant scene’s farm-to-table ethos hadn’t yet spilled over into the burgeoning craft brewing community. The two had a thirst to get back to their agricultural roots, so over beers they hatched a plan to become a planting partner for local brewers.
Carson, an anesthesiologist, and Conn, a managing partner for his family’s construction company, decided their side hustle would have to start small. Barley—one of beer’s four main ingredients along with water, hops, and yeast—was their initial focus, but growing it requires a lot of acreage, so instead they launched Hopped Farms.
Because Ohio’s climate, soil composition, and topography—collectively known as the terroir in winemaking circles—are different from the West Coast (where most of the U.S. commercial hops farms are), so is the flavor profile of the hops, much to the delight of Hopped Farms’ brewing partners. As Jim Strelau, head brewer and co-owner at Little Miami Brewing Company, puts it, “It’s like giving a painter 20 new colors never available before. It keeps things interesting and fresh.”
You’ll be able to enjoy the fruits (technically hops are flowers) of Carson’s and Conn’s labor this fall at a number of local breweries, where the farm-to-glass freshness creates a uniquely satisfying flavor.
BACK TO THEIR ROOTS
Shawn Carson used to spend summers and holidays on his grandfather’s farm in Missouri, and Andrew Conn’s family (above, below) has raised livestock for two generations. They launched Hopped Farms on two one-acre plots in Indian Hill, one near Symmes Township and the other near Milford.
Hopped Farms produces 1,000 lbs. of hops annually.
SPRING HAS SPRUNG
Carson and Conn hang rot- and pest-resistant coconut fiber from an elaborate grid of steel cables (above) to guide the growing hops, and use a blowtorch to kill harmful molds, fungi, and mildew (below).
HOP TO IT
Cincinnati’s hot, humid summers aren’t ideal for growing hops; 98 percent of commercial U.S. hop farms are in the Pacific Northwest. But Hopped Farms now grows more than a dozen varieties. “We’ve developed a kinship with them about amazingly good, fresh local hops, and about conservation,” says Matthew Utter (below left, with beard), co-owner of HighGrain Brewing in Silverton.
“Beer with fresh hops is akin to enjoying fresh-squeezed orange juice instead of store-bought OJ.” —SHAWN CARSON
“There’s really nothing like picking hops and brewing with them hours later,” says Baumann. “We enjoy sitting down with Shawn and Andrew and making something that represents both of our crafts,” says Hayes.