Country View: Bonnie and Jeff Steinman - Hop Head Farms - Hickory Corners, MI
Jeff and Bonnie Steinman of Hickory Corners, Michigan, have always considered themselves craft beer fanatics and plant geeks. So when Bonnie's cousin opened a brewery and asked the couple if they would grow hops for him, they took the challenge. Jeff says the small organic test plot was one-fifth of an acre.
"We put in eight different varieties to trial, and then the following year we filled in the other half of it," Bonnie says. "We've added other varieties over the last few years just to see which ones do well in Michigan and which ones aren't so good so that if we were in the position to do it commercially, we'd know which ones could work very well for us."
The Steinmans have trialed 16 varieties of hops so far, and now grow nine varieties commercially on 30 acres they call Hop Head Farms. The organic practices they used on the test plot worked so well, they're also using them on the commercial farm.
The Steinmans crops have been well-received by Michigan's largest brewery as well as microbreweries. The couple has interest from out-of-state brewers, too. Bonnie says you can have the best hops anywhere, but if they're not harvested, dried, and processed properly, they're ruined. That's why the couple has invested in top-quality equipment and practices.
We've set everything up to be very clean and food safe, and make sure that it's done to the utmost detail," Bonnie says. "We dry them nicely, and they're put into a pellet, and they're sealed into bags. Sometimes they're hand delivered, or delivered through delivery services so they get to them very fresh."
The Steinmans occasionally brew beer to test the quality and taste of their hops, but Jeff says they're not very good at it, and would rather leave it to the professionals!
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