SOUTH SOLON — On Saturday, July 22, the Ohio Hops Growers Guild (OHGG), an organization formed to help set a standard of quality and practice for Ohio hops growers, sponsored a tour of the nine Ohio hops yards. The OHGG formed in the summer of 2014, always with the goal of uniting growers and offering them information, resources and stability. Since then, the group has grown to more than 80 members. This open house was both a way of continuing that mission of unity and also providing those interested in the subject a way of learning about it first hand.
Derek Thompson, a former Madison County resident currently residing in Cincinnati, had a Madison County hops yard among the list of places to visit.
Thompson owns and operates OSHY, an acronym for Olamani Sipu Hop Yard, which is located in South Solon at the southwest corner of Madison County. The name comes from a Delaware Indian word that refers to Paint Creek, a small flow of water near the hops yard property. His hops yard contains nearly 800 plants of the Cascade and Centennial varieties, two of the most popular and versatile plants on the market.
“I started probably four or five years ago brewing home-brewed beer,” Thompson said. “And after a year or two doing that, I put some plants in my garden to see if they would grow.” A few of the varieties took off for him which he then used to brew another batch and decided to move forward from there.
Thompson’s family are corn and soybean farmers in Madison County and he chose to start his near-acre sized hops yard on an unused patch of land near one of the family corn fields. He has been working with the current crop of plants for three years, performing all the maintenance and watering himself.
The location also bodes well for the day-to-day operations of the yard. “One of the reasons we picked this spot is because of the location of the creek,” he said. The water is hand-pumped by Thompson and used on his plants.
“I need little help in the spring and harvest is coming up, so I’ll need some help with that,” Thompson said. “But in the summertime, it’s pretty much just me.”
Since starting the yard, Thompson has become a member of the OHGG. Like many in the guild, his interest started with a passion and love of quality beer – something Thompson hopes to continue as he moves toward building more working relationships with local breweries.
“Mother Stewarts in Springfield, they’re great. Nine Giant in Cincinnati is my local brewpub that I can walk to,” Thompson said. He has formed a relationship with those two companies, but since the plants take 3 to 4 years to mature, he plans on meeting with more places in that time.
“It’s definitely an experimental project and something we’re all still learning about,” he said. Much of the country’s most fruitful hops yards are in California. For Ohio growers, it’s all about cultivating and understanding how to make a quality product. “We’re small now, but there’s no reason we can’t meet those standards that people are looking for.”
Reach Michael Williamson at 740-852-1616, ext. 1619.