The Inside Look at Top Hops Farm  Utilizing local products and ingredients whenever possible has always been important to us here at Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales. One local company that we have started partnering with more and more is Top Hops Farm in Goodrich, MI.   As of right now we have produced beers using their Chinook, Tahoma, Cascade, and Cashmere hops. We recently had the pleasure of taking a trip out to the Top Hops Farm to see exactly where our hops are coming from. Below you can find pictures of Top Hops Farm and an extremely interesting and insightful Q&A section from Sean Trowbridge, one of the Top Hops owners.   What interested you in getting into the hop farming industry?    The stars aligned for us around 2011/2012 and we were lucky enough to see our opportunity and pull the trigger.  Some of the major factors included my father and business partner had just retired from engineering and already had a small piece of farm land, I had been in the “Professional” world for several years and realized I wasn’t too interested in climbing the corporate ladder, we had been trialing hops for several years already on a smaller scale, and the craft beer industry was young and booming in Michigan. The beginning of our farm also included pigs, turkeys, bees, and large vegetable plantings, however, it was the hops that seemed most viable.     Other than that, I have always been into the great outdoors, nature, growing things, and in general being outside. I obtained a degree from CMU in Biology and Natural Sciences and have always been interested in plants and plant science since a young age. Hops are an incredibly interesting plant and fun to grow!      Could you tell us a little background information on Top Hops?    Top Hops LLC was started in 2012 by partners Mark and Sean Trowbridge (and their wives Mel & Jen). The business plan included slowly building ourselves up to a fully sustainable family hop farm business. Similar in nature to a “European” family hop farm business of say 15-20 acres vs. a Pacific Northwest style several hundred-acre or more operation.    We started with 5 acres and a picking machine and invested into ourselves each year until present day where we are at 17 acres of hops with brand new, hops only picking and processing facilities, and quality picking, drying, pelletizing, packaging, and storage equipment.  We have the capacity to harvest and process approximately 30 acres of hops at current time.     The farm employs the two partners, a part time mechanic, a part time general maintenance helper, and in the spring and fall, approximately 20 part time staff for field work and harvesting that are usually local students or friends in need of short term work.    How many varieties do you grow and what specific varieties?    We currently grow 7 varieties of Hops with an 8  th   variety being added this summer/fall.    Cashmere   Tahoma   Mt. Rainier   An unnamed Neomexicanus   Cascade C  hinook   Centennial    What do you find important to the success of both growing and selling hops?    Always stay busy! The hops like to see their masters each day (an old hop farmer saying) and we the farmers like to see our customers as often as possible as well. Always scouting the hopyards, always learning and discussing growing with other commercial farmers, and always in communication with our customers. I believe we do everything we can to produce both food safe and top quality hops, however, I believe most of our customers are buying into us just as much as they are seeking out our top quality hops. We aim to stay with the small family farm aspect with no intentions of incorporating or adding partners. The grower to brewer relationships we have is an important key to our success. The grower can know anything they desire about our hops and operation, and we listen to what the brewers are looking for, wanting, or questions, etc. regarding the hops or what we could do better or offer additionally. At the end of the day, we aim to create friendships with the breweries we supply to with the goal of long term, mutually beneficial relationships.     In your opinion, how does the future look for the hop industry, especially in Michigan?    Well I could write volumes on this. It is very interesting. Even on a micro scale, that being Michigan, we are very much involved in global hop business. Craft sector is growing in some regions and slowing in others. Global hop producers are in different levels of hop volumes. Europe is pretty well contracted with little oversupply, same with New Zealand and Australia. The Pacific Northwest on the other hand has grown something like 50% in acreage over the past 5 years. Crazy expansion out there, it is tapering back a bit but still plenty of new hop acreage going in the ground. Lots of huge national breweries long on certain hop varieties and the ever shifting flavor demands of the consumer make for a lot of moving targets with US brokers sitting on lots of volume in cold storage.  I currently think that there is a high volume of hop availability causing a very strong spot market at the time along with lowered pricing and little need for brewers to contract most varieties. This is cyclical and happens often enough in the long term market. Prices go up, more hops go in, too many hops, prices go back down and hops come out of production. The PNW very often takes hops in or out of production at a scale that is larger than all of the hops grown in Michigan put together.     Back to Michigan, I think we are going to see a lot of smaller 1-5 acre type farms struggle, especially if they do not have many hop varieties and ones they do have are a dime a dozen and not seen as shiny and new which is what so many brewers are looking for these days (looking at you cascade!). The amount of effort and $ to swap out varieties is really tough if you do not have enough other hop volume to lean on. We are even hearing some of the larger farms are putting some acreage on hold and not stringing some fields this year to adjust their volumes to meet needs on specific varieties. Small farmers with the right varieties can sell at a profitable point and be successful however the same farmer with less desirable varieties might be in trouble.   Also, surplus from larger Michigan farms can drive down price and make it even harder for the smaller guys. In terms of production as a whole, Michigan sits around 800-900 acres and I don’t see that going up significantly any time soon until the larger growers see what’s going on in the market for awhile… As they grow so much, they are competing with the majors on prices and for customers which is no small feat with current market conditions. Additionally, the 800 or so acres grown in the state can more than supply ALL breweries in Michigan if the top two producers were not included which means competition for sales outside of Michigan were the “local” aspect isn’t really an option for added demand. We are all striving for great quality and food safety, and I think that anyone who has been in the business here in Michigan for more than a few years should be doing pretty well by now in that regards. Hard work, good relationships, and top quality product will be key to success here in Michigan in the future.     What separates Top Hops farm from other hop farms?    We are a small family farm that has all equipment necessary to grow, harvest, process (pelletize), store, and deliver hops to breweries of any size and with significant quantity and exceptional quality. We take care of our hops from soil to boil and put everything we have into it.  We are more than a few acre farm that has to outsource their harvesting/processing and usually sales, and we are still small enough to keep the business relationships personal on a farmer to brewer level without sales persons or corporate business policy getting in the way.   We look to have our customers feeling they are in a relaxed and enjoyable business relationship with our farm and generally all contracts are simply a gentleman’s agreement. No pages and pages of legalities, no “checking with corporate to see if we can do that deal” Just down to earth people working to supply other down to earth people with top quality local ingredients at a fair price.  Brewers are always welcome to the farm, and we host an industry event for them just before harvest with full pig roast and the whole nine yards. We also donate hops to homebrew groups and events and have homebrew clubs to the farm for tours in the summer.     What is your mission or goals for Top Hops Farm?    Top Quality, Top Service, Top Hops!    We strive to operate a fun and professional commercial hop operation, managed in a family manner that retains great relationships with our brewing customers through transparency, honesty, and a top quality product.        

  

  	
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


      

  

  	
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


                  Older Post:   WORLD WATER DAY

THE INSIDE LOOK AT TOP HOPS FARM

Utilizing local products and ingredients whenever possible has always been important to us here at Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales. One local company that we have started partnering with more and more is Top Hops Farm in Goodrich, MI. 

     
 2017 BIÈRE REVIEW 
           JANUARY 2017 COLLABORATION AND SERIES RELEASES        

  

  	
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


     We kicked off 2017 by re-releasing our highly sought-after collaboration with  Maui Brewing Company .   Click here for more.        

  

  	
       
      
         
          
             
          
             
                  
             
          
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


     This special birthday beer was brewed by Ron for his friend Gabe, brewmaster at  Anchorage Brewing Company .   Click here for more.        

  

  	
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


     Ron collaborated with himself to brew our first collaboration with  North Peak Brewing Company .   Click here for more.                      MARCH 2017   COLLABORATION AND SERIES RELEASES        

  

  	
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


     We welcomed spring with our second collaboration with  Monkish Brewing Company .   Click here for more.        

  

  	
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


     Our first psychedelic and hopped up collaboration with our friends at  Holy Mountain Brewing Company .   Click here for more.        

  

  	
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


     Another release of our Baudelaire Series favorite, iO Saison.   Click here for more.        

  

  	
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


     La Roja du Kriek is a cherry juice infused version of our year round classic, La Roja.   Click here for more.               MAY 2017  COLLABORATION AND SERIES RELEASES        

  

  	
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


     Things got strange in May when we released our first collaboration with  Revelry Brewing Company .   Click here for more.                                    APRIL 2017   COLLABORATION AND SERIES RELEASES        

  

  	
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


     We brought back our chardonnay aged brew from the Baudelaire Series, Ale Absurd.   Click here for more.        

  

  	
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


     To once again celebrate Ron and Laurie's anniversary, we released La Vida Improvisaciòn.   Click here for more.                             JUNE 2017 COLLABORATION AND SERIES RELEASES        

  

  	
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


     June marked the release of our first collaboration with our dear friends at  Jester King Brewing Company .   Click here for more.        

  

  	
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


     Bamarillo, our summertime Bam seasonal series release captures the essence of a summer adventure!   Click here for more.                             JULY 2017  COLLABORATION AND SERIES RELEASES        

  

  	
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


     We debuted our first collaboration with  Gigantic Brewing Company  this July.   Click here for more.                                    AUGUST 2017   COLLABORATION AND SERIES RELEASES        

  

  	
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


     As summer came to an end our second collaboration with  Celina Tio  was finally ready to be shared.   Click here for more.        

  

  	
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


     A re-release of our specialty saison, Clementina.   Click here for more.                             SEPTEMBER 2017   COLLABORATION AND SERIES RELEASES        

  

  	
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


     Our first collaboration with  The Masonry , was brewed to pair perfectly with a slice of pizza.   Click here for more.        

  

  	
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


     Our German inspired wheat Bam seasonal release.   Click here for more.        

  

  	
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


     A saison brewed with all Michigan ingredients was the latest addition to our letter series this fall.   Click here for more.                      OCTOBER 2017   COLLABORATION AND SERIES RELEASES        

  

  	
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


     Our latest limited brew for  The Rare Beer Club  was named by our devoted drinkers.   Click here for more.                                    NOVEMBER 2017 COLLABORATION AND SERIES RELEASES        

  

  	
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


     Our second collaboration with  Holy Mountain Brewing  ... this time it's personal.   Click here for more.        

  

  	
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


     We are welcoming winter with our seasonal Bam release brewed with chestnuts.   Click here for more.                            Newer Post:   2018 IS HERE!   Older Post:   MEET GERTRUDE STEIN

2017 BIÈRE REVIEW

A recap of all the collaborations and series releases of 2017. Take a look and make sure you didn't miss anything! You may be able to find a few bottles left of shelves....but not for long!

      LA PARCELA BIÈRE RELEASE  Everyone’s favorite time of year is once again upon us! Halloween, a special time for us not only because we are Jolly Pumpkin, but because we embrace the weird while merging our funky fantasies with mundane reality and well, because we are Jolly Pumpkin.    La Parcela, which is Spanish for “The Patch” was originally crafted as our answer to many peoples laughs. For years the joke was that Jolly Pumpkin doesn’t brew a pumpkin beer. Well, now we do. Packed with real pumpkins, hints of spice, and a gentle kiss of cocoa to liven the soul. An everyday easy way to fill your squashy quotient. Guess now folks will have to find something else to joke about…  This beer was oak aged in our eerie foeder forest for nearly 4 months, allowing it to mingle with spirits, dance with demons, and absorb our house funk. This unique combination created a tart, very lightly  spiced refreshing ale coming in at 5.9% ABV and 22 IBUs. Do as the beasts within are asking of you and grab La Parcela in a 750 ml bottle or on draft today… or else!  Yes, many pumpkins were harmed in the brewing of this beer!                

  

  	
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


    
 
	 MORE ABOUT LA PARCELA 
                           Older Post:    DAY OF ZWANZE AT JOLLY PUMPKIN

LA PARCELA BIÈRE RELEASE

Everyone’s favorite time of year is once again upon us! Halloween, a special time for us not only because we are Jolly Pumpkin, but because we embrace the weird while merging our funky fantasies with mundane reality and well, because we are Jolly Pumpkin.  

 

       Return of a Classic and the Continuation of a Collaboration Series!   Here at Jolly Pumpkin we listen to the beer and wait for it to tell us when it is ready to leave the foeder forest and venture forth. We can’t force the beer to go out into the cold, scary world until it is fully matured and ready. We try our best to give each beer its own turn in the spotlight, but sometimes after being so close to each other for so long a beer needs a friend to make the long and dangerous journey from the brewery to the glass. Such was the case for releases this week: our newest creation, Forgotten Tales of the Last Gypsy Blender Series II, Volume I and an old favorite, Clementina. Both decided that to leave the brewery they needed to leave together. We can’t blame them; they look great next to one another.              Forgotten Tales of the Last Gypsy Blender Series II, Volume I   These blends are the continuation of our  Last Gypsy Blender Series  which are collaborations with  Chef Celina Tio . Inspired by Chef Tio’s love for all things bourbon, this beer is our weird amalgamation of beer and whiskey sours. Forgotten Tales of the Last Gypsy Blender Series II, Volume I incorporates grains of beech and cherry smoked malts, 3 different hops, preserved lemons, lime peel, bourbon smoked sugar and Kiawe smoked sea salt. Three batches of separate sizes were brewed and placed in our oak foeders for eight, thirteen, and fifteen months. Even though they were blended together before packaging, the blend resulted in one beer with two distinct personalities. Try Batch A, mainly in bottles, for a smokier delight. Batch B & C for more lemony goodness.     
 
	 MORE ABOUT THIS BIÉRE 
       

  

  	
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


             

  

  	
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


        CLEMENTINA   Clementina is a bright and highly effervescent oak aged golden saison that was last released in February 2017. We knew it would run out quickly so a month before it’s last release we had another batch in the works. The current iteration was brewed with yuzu and lime peel, pink Himalayan salt, coriander and clementine juice, then aged in oak for 7 months. Citrus and bready wheat in the aroma, tart and refreshing with notes of citrus in the finish. This delightful elixir clocks in at the highly quaffable ABV of 5.5% and will be available in both 750ml bottles and on draft throughout the entire Jolly Pumpkin network for the first time.     
 
	 MORE ABOUT THIS BIÉRE 
             Newer Post:   DAY OF ZWANZE IS ALMOST HERE!   Older Post:   DAY OF ZWANZE

RETURN OF A CLASSIC AND THE CONTINUATION OF A COLLABORATION SERIES!

Forgotten Tales of the Last Gypsy Blender Series II, Volume I and Clementina are releasing this week.