The History of Bay Area Hops
“The quality of Santa Clara Valley hops is acknowledged superior to any other in the great hop markets of the world.”
- Bishop’s Directory of the City of San Jose for 1876
During the late 1800s, some of the best hops in the world were grown in what was known as the “California Willow Grove” - currently the North Willow Glen neighborhood of San Jose. Isaac and C.T. Bird along with Odd Fellows Savings Bank grew hops on over 300 acres of land and produced more than 400,000 pounds of hops annually. These hops were then sold to local breweries, such as Fredericksburg Brewery on the Alameda and Cinnabar Street - where the Avalon apartments now stand - and the Eagle Brewing Company on Market and San Carlos Streets - the current location of St. Claire Hotel.
These “hop ranches” and local breweries met their demise when San Jose voted to prohibit the sales of alcohol in 1918 - two years prior to the nationwide Prohibition movement. Rail tracks used to transport hops to local breweries are the only relics remaining from the hopyards, but we here at New World Ales are proud to be starting a new history for the Bay Area hop industry.
The New World Ales Hop Ranch
In the spring of 2015, New World Ales set out to create a half-acre hopyard in San Martin, California just south of Morgan Hill. Over 250 plant sites were established for a substantial planting of West Coast and specialty hops: Cascade, Centennial, Chinook, Columbus, Crystal, and Willamette dominate the yard with a limited planting of Cluster, Horizon, Magnum, Newport, Nugget, and Sorachi Ace to complement them.
By having our hopyard locally located, we can pick and brew with hops at the peak of their ripeness. Unlike most beers which use dried hops, the hops in the our “wet” hopped beers - available September through November each year - are picked from the hop bine and used in the brewing process in three hours or less. This allows the hop’s most delicate and volatile oils and aromas to be infused into the brew instead of being lost in drying and processing.
To perfect the timing of this ranch to kettle journey for our hops requires a great deal of effort on our part, but we feel it is worth it to provide you with a hop experience unlike any other.
In addition to honoring the hop ranches of the California Willow Grove, we call our hopyard New World Ales Hop Ranch as it is much more than just a farm. There are chickens, goats, ducks, and a pony on our ranch that happily help us dispose of our spent hops and grains from the brewing process as well as the hop leaves and bines collected from pruning and harvesting of the hopyard. All of our hops and grains are recycled as this nutritional feed, essentially eliminating all waste produced naturally. This process - along with our other green processes such as our gravity fed brewing and bottling system and drip irrigation of the hopyard - allows us to have as positive of an impact as possible on the environment.