Once upon a time, New York produced some of the best hops in North America. However, pestilence and Prohibition took their toll and New York hops died out quite some time ago. This has had a direct impact on the craft brewing scene in New York State. Both barley and hops have to be imported from other areas, including other parts of the US, from Canada and even from Europe. That drives up prices for ingredients and puts brewing out of reach for many would-be craft brewers. However, with the revival of New York hops growth, that might change.
One sign of this change is the fact that at least one craft brew using New York hops is already on the market, though you shouldn’t expect to find it at your local beer mart. Mark VanGlad is producing a pale ale using specialty grains grow on his family farm and uses hops grown in the area as well. He also flavors the ale with maple syrup that his family produces from their property. Currently, the beer is only available at a local farmers market called the Union Square Greenmarket, where his family has had a stall for decades. Ma-Pale is the name of the brew in question and it’s a session beer with an ABV between 4 and 5%. VanGlad also plans on brewing up a red ale using other local ingredients, such as honey.
All of this is poised to help New York reclaim its place as one of the leading states in the nation for beer brewing and might even help it regain its position as the leading supplier of hops in America. Hops first came to US shores in the early 1600s but didn’t really take off in New York until the early 1800s. From that point, New York exploded as the primary source for the highest quality hops in the country. The soil and growing conditions in the central region of the state were ideal for hops to flourish and by the end of the century, the area was producing up to 60 million pounds of hops annually.
Then disaster struck. Mildew struck first in 1909 and wiped out an enormous amount of the hops growing. That was followed by aphid attacks and more mildew. Before the industry could recover, Prohibition was enacted and the crop fell away completely. Thanks to VanGlad and others like him, that could be changing for the better.