Rogue Farms Releases (Beer) Crop Report

imageFrom Rogue:

This year’s harvest was the most varied one since we planted our first rhizome in 2008. It brought us more blood, sweat and tears (and bee stings) than ever, but we’re still thankful we collaborate with Mother Nature to Grow the Revolution.

Rogues of all walks take a stab at farming for a day.

It takes village of Rogues to plant, grow, harvest, drive, brew and distill our proprietary ingredients each year. We handpick our ingredients under the hot summer sun, and we have the satisfaction of knowing that each pumpkin, cucumber and berry will be brewed or distilled, then bottled and sent to be enjoyed by fellow Rogues around the world.

Hops are the stars of the show at Rogue Farms in Independence, but we’re always working on expanding our proprietary palette of ingredients and challenging ourselves to grow as much as we can for use in our beers, spirits, ciders and sodas. Here is what we grew at Rogue Farms in Independence this year:

Total Acreage: 52; Acreage Harvested: 42; Varieties Harvested: 8; Total Yield: 60,000 pounds

John Maier takes a final stroll through the hopyard before the harvest.

When the total hop harvest numbers came in, we were a little disheartened: This year’s harvest yielded nearly 8,000 pounds less than the 2015 harvest. We, along with the Hop Growers of America, were expecting a bumper crop, but we should know better by now than to guess what Mother Nature has planned.

Truckloads of freshly harvest bines coming in from the field.

Our Revolution and Freedom hops were especially disappointing this year. Although the Revolution hops’ moisture content was ideal for harvesting, the cones were too fragile and shattered as we cut the bines from the trellis. Next year, we’ll pick them a little greener and dry them in the kiln a little longer in hopes of keeping the cones intact.

To figure out why the Freedom hops underperformed, we dug into the ground and made some discoveries: The rhizomes, or roots, of the Freedom bines have begun to grow around each other and choke each other out, so we’ve made a plan to fix the problem before next growing season. Over the coming weeks, we’ll pull out all the drip irrigation from the field, dig into the ground and split the roots apart. When the bines emerge from the ground in the spring, we’ll cut the tops off. This should encourage stronger growth and a higher yield next year.

This is the risk that comes along with farming. You never know how bountiful the harvest will be. Although hops didn’t produce as well as we’d hoped, the other crops at Rogue Farms were plentiful.

Acreage: 2; Yield: 6,857 pounds (or 622,056.6 berries)

Handpicking our two-acre patch of Prickless Marionberries, one by one.

Our first year harvesting the two acres of  marionberries brought us stained fingers, dirty knees, aching backs and bee stings — and we wouldn’t change a thing. Handpicking the 1,602 canes over three weeks resulted in an average harvest for the young plants; we expect next year’s yield to be nearly double.

Quantity: 7,140,289 honeybees; Yield: 28 beestings

Harvesting the Rogue Farms wildflower honey at sunrise.

The farm vibrated with the hum of our honeybees this summer. They feasted on marionberry, cherry, cucumber, pumpkin and wildflower blossoms. The sweet honey they produce truly captures the terroir of Rogue Farms, with the flavor changing slightly each year depending on what nectar they collect. We’re so proud of them for helping Rogue take home the Best in Show award for Honey Kolsch for two consecutive years at the National Honey Board’s Honey Beer Awards.

Acreage: 1; Yield: 7,503 (or 1,251 pumpkins)

Rogues gather to harvest our acre of Dream Pumpkins.

It was one of the hottest days of the summer — 102 degrees — when we sent out a call to our fellow Rogues to help handpick our sweet Dream Pumpkins. As usual, they came in droves. We started picking as the sun rose over the Willamette River, chopping each pumpkin from the bine, picking it up from the ground and throwing it to the next Rogue. We filled tote after tote and drove them 77 miles to the Rogue Brewery in Newport, Oregon, to be hand chopped, roasted in a pizza oven and brewed into Pumpkin Patch Ale — all within eight hours of being picked. It doesn’t get much fresher than that.

Acreage: 1; Yield: 3,208 pounds (or 4,666 cucumbers)

Not just handpicked, our cucumbers are also hand-peeled for our Rogue Spirits Spruce Gin.

These jolly green giants were ready to harvest at the same time as our Dream Pumpkins, so we just walked a few feet over and finished the job. We may have snacked on a few. (Don’t tell.)

Acreage: .5; Yield: 503 pounds (or 11,339 jalapeños)

When our jalapenos turn red, it signals that they’re ripe and ready for harvest.

Can you imagine picking 11,339 bright red jalapeños by hand? We can. Most of the jalapeños in stores and markets are green, but we wait until they are fully ripe and siren red to pick ours. The bright spots of color in the field told us it was time to harvest.

This year, we built a dehydrator at the Rogue Brewery in Newport. After harvesting the jalapeños, we drove them 77 miles to the brewery, where they were dehydrated, smoked over cherry and alder wood, and then walked 276 steps to the brew kettle.

Acreage: 4; Yield Estimate: 60,000 pounds (or 27,215,542 kernels)

Wigrich Corn field drying until harvest.

We are always happy and a bit wistful to bring our Wigrich Corn in from the field, our last crop of the season. If our harvest is as bountiful as last year, we expect nearly 60,000 pounds of corn kernels. We’re still aging our first batch of bourbon from our first harvest of Wigrich Corn. From seed to shot, it’s a practice of patience.

Acreage: .3; Experimental Crops: 11

A Rogue Farms honeybee forages on an angelica blossom in the Revolution Garden.

What looks like merely a lovely garden as you stroll by is one of the most vital pieces of Rogue Farms — and one of our favorites. The Revolution Garden is where we experiment with growing, harvesting and processing potential new crops. Our marionberries, cucumbers, jalapeños, corn and pumpkins all started in our little garden. Sometimes testing means eating four different varieties of strawberries to see which is sweetest and juiciest. Yeah, we like it here.

Rogue Farms Dream Rye growing in the rain shadow of Mount Hood.

Without the awesome power of Mount Hood, growing our grains in Tygh Valley would be impossible. From the snow melting off its slopes and filling our reservoirs to the rain shadow and 300 days of sunshine it creates, Mount Hood forms the unique terroir of our eastern Rogue Farms — so it’s only fitting that we enjoy a magnificent view of the peak from our malthouse as a constant reminder of its influence. Here’s what we grew in Tygh Valley this year:

Acreage: 182; Yield: 800,002 pounds

Our Risk™ Malting Barley bows their heads, showing us that they’re heavy and ready for harvesting.

The past three years of growing Risk™ Malting Barley have been dramatic to say the least. Droughts, frost, greedy geese and massive wildfires have kept us on our toes. We’re thankful that, this year, we had a mellow growing season and a beautiful harvest. The barley we harvested will travel only 18 feet from the field to the floor of the Rogue Farms Malthouse.

Acreage: 16; Yield: 33,994 pounds

Our first harvest of Dream Rye in Tygh Valley.

Before this year, we grew our Dream Rye at Rogue Farms in Independence. But after three years spent fighting armies of slugs for our planted seeds, we decided to move our rye over to Tygh Valley. The long, hot summer days and terroir of Tygh Valley are much better suited to growing grains. The slugs probably miss us, but we sure don’t miss the slugs.

The fog rolls into Rogue Farms, winter nipping at our heels.

About Bil Cord

Founder, owner, author, graphic designer, CEO, CFO, webmaster, president, mechanic and janitor for Producer and Co-host of the WILK Friday BeerBuzz live weekly craft beer radio show. Small craft-brewer of the craft beer news sites and one-man-band with way too many instruments to play.

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