On Saturday August 25, 2018 Steel City Brewers were fortunate to tour High Altitude Hops Farm! Fellow SCB member Adam Wiseman coordinated the tour, and we couldn't be happier that he did! Five of us made it out for the tour and thoroughly enjoyed our time there! Owner Kris Meese took time out of a busy day harvesting hops to be our tour guide. He tought us about hops, what goes into running a hop farm and how he got his start in the hop industry.
Kris and his wife started growing hops while living in Denver. They grew hops not for beer, but as a means to help prevent the smell of chemical fertilizers used at the near by golf course from wafting into their back yard. Since hop vines grow upwards of 20ft high they were the perfect solution as they created a curtain blocking the unwanted smells. Having never brewed beer, Kris did not realize the demand for fresh hops. On a late summer day back in 2013 Kris was approached by a local home brewer asking if he could pick his hops. Allowing him to do so, this made Kris wonder if he could successfully grow organic hops and sell them to local breweries. After lots of research and finally getting fedup with the hassels of big city life, Kris and his wife decided to move to Larksur, Colorado to pursue his new found dream of being a hop farmer. In 2015 he opened High Altitude Hops Farm!
Unless you know where to look or what to look for you would never know there is a fully functional hop farm nesseled 7,340 feet above sea level in the foothills of quiet Larspur, Colorado. The farm is currently only growing on 3/4 of an acre producing 4 varities to include Chinook, Cascade, Crystal and Teamaker hops. Future plans are to expand production of currently grown hops and to add additional varities. Sustainability and organic farming are priorities for Kris. Knowing that he is providing quality organic hops free from chemicals is what he is passionate about. He sources cow and alpaca manure from his neighbors for fertilizer and grows marigolds throughout the farm. In addition to colorful additions to landscaping, marigolds have a distinctive smell that repels garden pests. In fact marigolds contain a natural compound used in many commertial insect repellents. Hops are hand picked even though they could use automated harvesting machines. Hand picking hops prevents bits and pieces of leaves and vines from finding its way to the boil kettle.
We also had the pleasure of meeting Levi. Levi is an 11 year old neighbor boy who as been bit by the farming bug. He is working as an intern at the farm and told us that one day he wants to farm as well.
After our tour we asked Kris if we could help pick hops. He was more than excited about that since the farm was in full harvest mode that day. We helped pick hops that were delevered to Lone Tree Brewing Company for a batch of beer they were brewing that day. Talk about farm to bottle! After the harvest was done we enjoyed a fabulous BBQ lunch and Kris sent us on our way with 2lbs of Chinook hops each! Our day spent at High Altitude Hops Farm was enjoyable and informative. We deffinatly will return and hope we can have more members take part next time!