A Wet Hop Summer
The threat of rain loomed high all weekend, but where the forecast had claimed clouds, blue sky broke through — and with it came heat. The heat warmed the air and delivered perfect conditions for our harvest on Pender Island. For the fifth year in a row, a dedicated team of local volunteers gathered along with us at Hope Bay Hop Farm to tackle this year’s crop of plump, juicy hops that go into our Wolf Vine Wet-Hopped Ale.
Building a History
Something we’ve been really proud of over the years are the relationships we’ve been able to build with our community. Often those relationships are obvious and we can see them growing from the get-go, like with suppliers or restaurants or staff, but occasionally a relationship forms that take years to coalesce — like our relationship with Richard, from Hope Bay Hop Farm on Pender Island.
Our Brewmaster, Sean Hoyne, met Richard at an event at UVic. The brewery was fairly new and Sean was at the event to pour beer. Richard, a professor nearing retirement, struck up a conversation that quickly turned to what he was going to do for act two of his career. Richard had some property on Pender, was thinking of farming. The idea of growing hops was mentioned. The conversation then carried on to other things and Sean didn’t give it another thought, until about a year later when Richard got in touch and said he’d taken the plunge and planted hops.
Wolf Vine is a wet-hopped ale we produce seasonally, plush with local hops and a growing history between Hoyne and Hope Bay.
Richard hadn’t farmed before and the learning curve was steep. The first season budded, but the hops were too young to use. The second season came in better — more mature — but they were plagued by a common problem: aphids and mites. It meant the entire crop had to be scrapped. Still keen on the idea of working with Richard, Sean reaffirmed to Richard that if he was able to grow a crop that met Hoyne standards the next year, he’d buy up the lot. Sadly, the mites and aphids struck again the following year and another crop was lost.
Not to be discouraged, Sean introduced Richard to a hop grower from Chilliwack, a man by the name of Christian Sartori. A German-Canadian, Sartori has been cultivating hops for decades and is an amazing resource for the process. He was kind enough to have Richard over to his farm to share some of his wisdom and know-how. Richard brought this fresh knowledge back to Pender and implemented Sartori’s teachings onto his own crop, which included organic solutions to prevent the aphids and mites. He installed trellises and planted different plants that aided the growing process.
It took four years for the Hope Bay Hop Farm to finally reach a place where the hops were usable, but in that fourth year, the crop that came in was a bumper.
They were magnificent! The nicest hops I had ever seen.
Starting a Tradition
In true Pender fashion, Richard gathered about 40 or 50 volunteers from the island to help with the one-day harvest, luring them in with the promise of live music, a big meal and some great beer. Our team went over with a truck full of buckets and we spent an entire day harvesting the hops by hand with the volunteers — a tradition that we have continued ever since.
We’re now in our fifth year working with the farm. Through this entire project, the biggest benefit to us has been the relationship we’ve been able to cultivate with Richard, Hope Bay Hop Farm and the great folks of Pender Island. It’s amazing what can grow from a simple conversation, a shared belief in a project and commitment to creating something special.