2017 Great Lakes Hop and Barley Conference

Hop and barley producers learn from industry experts.

Keynote speaker, John Mallett (Bell’s Brewery), discusses “Quality and Values in Beer and Brewing Raw Materials” at the 3rd annual Great Lakes Hop & Barley Conference in Detroit, MI. Photo credit: Rob Sirrine
Keynote speaker, John Mallett (Bell’s Brewery), discusses “Quality and Values in Beer and Brewing Raw Materials” at the 3rd annual Great Lakes Hop & Barley Conference in Detroit, MI. Photo credit: Rob Sirrine

On March 2 - 3, 2017, more than 300 participants attended the Great Lakes Hop & Barley Conference in Detroit. Producers, processors, vendors and brewers were on hand from 15 states and several countries to learn from industry experts from around the world. This year marked the first year that the conference was held in downtown Detroit. The amount of positive participant feedback on the conference venue, ease of travel, extracurricular activities and the hospitality of Detroit residents was extraordinary.

The conference planning committee consisted of Ashley McFarland, Erin Lizotte, Rob Sirrine, and Scott Graham (Michigan Brewers Guild). Once again, ANR Events Services (Betsy Braid & Megghan Honke) and Michigan State University Extension staff (Annette Kleinschmit-Leelanau & Michelle Coleman-Alger) ensured that the conference was well-organized and ran smoothly.

Dan Carmody, president of the Eastern Market Corporation, offered a lively welcome to participants, describing the increasing demand for local food and craft beer and opportunities to connect and advance these movements.

Morning educational sessions began with Damon Scott (Brewers Association) and an overview of the State of the Craft Beer Raw Material Supply Sector which included craft beer production volume trends, production, variety information and expected demand among others.

Dr. Steve Miller (Michigan State University) presented findings of a supply chain and economic impact assessment of Michigan’s craft beer sector. His preliminary findings suggest that if craft brewers purchased solely Michigan-grown raw materials (hops and malting barley), the sector would generate nearly $61M in total economic output and create more than 1,300 jobs.

After the national and state level market overviews, the conference attendees were able to attend one of three concurrent tracks: Barley and Malt; Hop-Introductory; or Hop-Advanced.

The Barley and Malt Track featured:

  • Dr. Rich Horsley (North Dakota State University) who discussed Advanced Barley Agronomy
  • Chris Kapp (Michigan State University) who provided malting barley research updates and was rewarded with a standing ovation
  • Martin Nagelkirk (MSU) and Nate Schramski (barley farmer), who presented on Winter Malting Barley Production
  • Malt 101 by Ryan Hamilton (Michigan Barley)
  • Lessons Learned from MI Hop growers
  • U.K. Heritage Barley Research, Chris Ridout and Cat Jacott (John Innes Centre)
  • Barley Handling and Storage, with Dr. Kenneth Hellevang (North Dakota State University)

Participants in the Hop Introductory Track heard from:

The Advanced Hop Track featured presentations on:

In the afternoon, both hop tracks reconvened to learn about:

After a vendor break, John Mallet (Bells Brewing Co.) was the keynote speaker of the conference. He took participants on an educational journey that spanned multiple centuries, continents, and fields of study and sought to reinforce the importance of quality and integrity in the brewing process; followed by a reception at Detroit Beer Company.

Special thanks are owed to Hop Head Farms, Hopyards of Kent, and MI-Local Hops for donating hops for the single hop beer that was brewed by Brew Detroit.

Day two featured a Hop Track as well as a Barley and Malt Track. On the barley side:

Participants were also invited to attend a tour at MotorCity MaltHouse in Shelby Township.

In the Hop Track:

  • Kevin Riel provided further insight regarding Hop Market Prospects using national data as well as knowledge he has accumulated in the five generations his family has been producing hops.
  • Val Peacock (Hop Solutions & Hop Quality Group), an internationally known hop drying and processing expert, provided detailed information on Hop Drying and Processing Best Practices that was very well received.
  • A hop producer panel (Great Lakes Hydrogrow, MI-Local Hops, Hopyards of Kent, High-Five Hops, and Top Hops discussed many aspects of production from 3rd party certified virus and disease free propagation, to best production practices on farms of different scales.
  • A panel of small to large scale Michigan hop processors discussed their operations and decision making processes - scale and food safety will be important considerations for any MI hop processor.
  • The Hop Growers of Michigan provided an update on their work on hop quality control and food safety and Alec Mull (Founders Brewing Co.) discussed the Hop Quality Group and their efforts to help hop processors produce the best quality hops on earth.

In addition to outstanding educational presentations, the conference once again hosted dozens of outstanding vendors that served to enhance the experience for everyone. Michigan State University and the Michigan Brewers Guild would like to express their thanks to all of the vendors, sponsors, and conference participants and look forward to another great conference in Southwest Michigan in 2018!

Please continue to visit MSU Extension, MSU Extension Hops Webpage, and the MSU Hops News Facebook page for up-to-date information.

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