Hidden Valley Hops Farm brings hop growing back to Winnebago Co.

Published: Sep. 5, 2020 at 7:30 PM CDT
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WINNEBAGO CO., Wis. (WBAY) - A Winnebago County man started producing a particular crop, bringing back a tradition that has been long gone from the area.

“The lupulin is what the brewers are looking for, so that is what flavors your beer.” said Justin Gloede.

Gloede knows a lot about growing hops.

“These [hop plants] will actually start growing at three feet a week during their peak during the summer,” said Gloede.

He started Hidden Valley Hops on his family farm in the Town of Winchester around 2016, and has since expanded to producing eight different varieties of hops: Allenville (Cluster), Tahoma, Super Saazer, Chinook, Hallertauer, Nugget, Tettnanger, and Cascade.

“I was looking around online trying to figure out what I could plant out here, I have a pretty big green thumb,” said Gloede. “So, I found the history of Winnebago County and found out this used to be a big hop-growing mecca.”

The history of hop growing in the area has deep roots.

“From the 1850s to about the 1880s Wisconsin was one of the largest hop-growing centers in the United States,” said Lee Reiherzer, who has studied and written on the history of beer.

Reiherzer says in that time, Winnebago County alone had about 150 acres of hops grown in the area, started by a man named Silas Allen who brought hops to Allenville.

“The hops you see back there come from the last of Silas Allen’s hop yards,” said Reiherzer. “The family gave up hop farming in 1879, those hops have been growing wild on that hop yard ever since.”

“So I went and grabbed some, and started growing them, and the rest is history,” said Gloede.

The aptly titled “Allenville” hops are a type of hop not grown much anymore.

“It’s a form of hop that’s called ‘Late Cluster,’” said Reiherzer. “So it has a very unique flavor and it really fits in with this profile of the beers that were brewed here during that period.”

They are considered an exclusive Hidden Valley Hop product, which intrigues Bare Bones Head Brewer Jody Cleveland.

“I have a beer that’s Oshkosh lager, it’s kind of my tribute to the old beers that were around, and to be able to have an ingredient in there that was actually around when those beers were made I think would just make it a little bit better,” said Cleveland.

Cleveland already used Gloede’s product to make a hop fresh type of beer, and says the brew went over well with customers.

“People want that connection to where they’re from and where they live,” said Cleveland.

It can take a few years to get a full harvest from hop plants, but there’s excitement in seeing an old tradition crop back up.

“What Justin is doing here is he’s really bringing back that lineage of hop growing in Winnebago County,” said Reiherzer.

“Anytime I do anything historical at the brewery it gets more people out and it’s just a great conversation starter to talk about where things were and where they’re going,” said Cleveland.

Gloede certainly hopes to keep it growing.

“Bring more local hopes to local breweries and local home brewers as well,” said Gloede.

Keep up with Hidden Valley Hops through its Facebook page or website.

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