OTTAWA COUNTY, Mich. -- Known as "Beer City USA," it's no secret West Michigan has seen growth when it comes to craft beer in recent years. Beer and Grand Rapids go hand in hand.
One of the key ingredients to make a quality beer is hops. Local breweries like City Built Brewery are now looking for hops grown locally in West Michigan. One farm supplying those hops is Pure Mitten Hops in Ottawa County.
There are 11 acres with six different hop varieties growing each spring at Pure Mitten Hops. Hops need the perfect mix of sunshine, water and fertilizer to survive.
Dying mildew is the biggest opponent to hops, which grow for 3-4 months working up almost 18 feet high; leaves and branches grow first, then the cones sprout.
The cones are what make the beer flavor and aroma that will taste different each season, with local climate giving the taste a different flare.
Farmers know when hops are ready to harvest with acid level lab testing and a simple look at the cones. Day by day plants are cut down and run through machines to take off only the cones.
After a short conveyor belt ride, the hops work 6-8 hours in large multi-floor driers. Dry hops are packed up and delivered to local breweries and turned into beer.
Pure Mitten Hops will start harvesting their hops in a few weeks.