Craft Beer Surge Increases Hops Farming Production

by Jennifer Smith July 26, 2018

Virtually extinct in Quebec for decades, hop culture is returning to local farms spurred by the increasing popularity of craft beers.

Hops are flowers that provide the main flavour ingredient in beer, giving it bitter or sometimes citric flavour.

Growing hops was common in Quebec until around the 1940s. It didn't become popular again until around 2010, after a global shortage drove up the price of the product and inspired growers to get back to it.

"Five hundred  years ago there was no hops in Quebec," said Luc Fortin, owner of a hops farm in Laval called Domaine Brune Houblonde.

"But when the French and English moved in, they brought plants with them because they wanted to brew beer."

The hops they brought with them can sometimes be found growing wild in forests and fields, and that these local strains have adapted to flourish in Quebec's climate, Fortin told CBC Montreal's Daybreak.

There are 4,000 different species of hops, said Fortin, about 500 of which can be used by brewers.

"Every hops is different. Some hops will feel like citrus, some will be piney, some will be coconut," he said.

Fortin told CBC that there are around 45 hops producers operating in Quebec right now, and many are joining together under the banner of Houblon Québec, an association of hop growers in the province. 

He said that as craft beer becomes more and more popular, the hops market continues to grow, not only in Quebec, but in Canada and overseas.

Quebec's climate is conducive to growing hops, but that doesn't mean it's easy to become a hop producer. The plant is prone to disease and takes years to produce after being planted.

Fortin started his farm in 2011 and after planting his crop, he wasn't able to harvest anything for the first four years.

He still works as an air traffic controller in Montreal, and runs the farm in his off hours, spending 40 to 50 hours a week on the passion project.

Now he sells his product to local breweries in Montreal and throughout the province, as well as south of the border.

Story re-posted from CBC News.

Jennifer Smith
Jennifer Smith