A Good Beer Blog

NY Hops In 1880s

[from Hop Culture in the United States, 1883, pages 63 to 72]

In 1822, however, some previous bad failures in England had cut off from the American brewers their supply of English hops, (the price in London in 1816 was 77 cents and in 1817 it was $1.44 per pound,) and some of these same New York State hops were sold by the grower in Albany for $1.50 per pound.

That gave the industry a fresh start. Its success was assured. It spread into adjoining counties. But still the bulk of the hops in the United States was raised east of the Hudson River, and in the states of Massachussetts and Vermont. Even as late as 1839 the State of New York raised only one-third of the entire crop of The United States. But in 1849 New York State raised fivesevenths of the entire crop of the United States and in 1859 seveneighths. The New England (or so-called " Eastern") hops could not hold their own against the richer hops and heavier crops of New York State. But while the New York State hop seems to keep up its reputation for quality, the quantity per acre has sadly fallen off since those good old times of a ton to the acre.

The present yield per acre throughout the State and the present extent of the hop industry here is best shown by the latest reliable figures we have; those of the United States Census pf 1880, in which the figures are those of the crop of 1879.

These statistics were sent to me direct from the Census Office, at Washington, and I have found them substantially correct.

Extent Of Hop Culture 1n New York State, 1n 1879.

There are four counties in New York, any one of which raises more hops than the whole State of Wisconsin, or California, and for the sake of showing the relative standing of the counties in 1879, I have figured out the average production per acre in each of the twenty principal hop-growing counties and have prepared the following table for convenient reference:

NEW YORK STATE HOPS.

Counties. Pounds, hops Acres in Average lbs. raised, 1879. hops. per acre.
Otsego 4,441,029 9,118 487
Oneida, 4,075,651 5,737 710
Madison 3,823,963 6,076 629
Schoharie 2,982,873 5,871 508
Franklin, 1,083,850 2,075 522
Montgomery 1,001,403 1,612 621
Ontario, 807,528 1,282 630
Herkimer 512,963 972 528
Lewis, 398,201 828 481
Livingston 3IOi574 422 736
Chenango, 302,857 794 382
Onondaga 281,892 489 576
Oswego 198,309 622 319
Delaware 190,793 569 335
Monroe 181,312 245 740
St. Lawrence 177,866 331 537
Wayne 145,573 189 77?
Jefferson, 135,955 269 505
Albany 123,182 243 507
Genesee, 121,813 185 658

Twenty principal hopraising counties, . . 21,297,587 37,929—562 lbs av. to acre.
Twenty other hop-raising counties, .... 435,734 943—462 lbs. av. to acre.
Sixteen counties ....

Total in N. Y. State, . 21,733,331 lbs. 38,872 acres—559 lbs. av. to acre.

With this table before us we observe: 1. A solid block of four counties, Otsego, Oneida, Madison and Schoharie, which produce more than two-thirds of all the hops raised in the State and more than half of the whole crop of America. Of these four, Otsego takes the lead in acreage and pounds produced, but Oneida is easily first in productiveness, giving 710 pounds per acre to Otsego 487. 2. Another remarkable group of counties we find in Ontario, Livingston, Monroe and Wayne, all close together and about a hundred miles west of the first group. Ontario is the seventh county in the State in order of acreage and pounds produced, but among these seven, it is second only to Oneida county, in point of yield per acre ; while its companions in the group, Livingston, Monroe and Wayne, show the highest yields per acre in the whole State. One would expect in counties favored like these, in point of productiveness, to see a large and rapidly increasing acreage, but the fact is that the large yield per acre is owing a good deal to the yards being confined to some narrow and fertile spot, as for instance, the Rose Valley farms, in Wayne county. Were the acreage extended over the whole county, as in Otsego and Oneida, the yield per acre would fall off materially. We can see by the figures, however, that taken together, the yield of hops per acre, determines whether a county, as .a whole, will develop into a hop-growing county or not. The twenty principal counties, give an average yield of 562 pounds to the acre; while the twenty-four other counties, in which hops are raised, give an average yield of just 100 pounds to the acre, less.

COMPARISON WITH OTHER HOP REGIONS OF THE UNITED STATES, IN 1879.

Turning now to compare the whole State with other hop regions, we find:

Crop, 1879. Pounds. Acres. Ave. lbs. per acre.
New York, 21,733,331 • 38,872 559
Wisconsin 1,966,427 4,438 443
California, 1,426,077 1,119 1,274
Washington Territory, 703,277 534 1,317

We notice at once the remarkable difference in the yield per acre of these, our four leading hop States. Washington Territory easily takes the lead in productiveness. The wonderful growth of hop culture in that Territory, is well set forth in another part of this book by Mr. Meeker, who is the largest hop grower in that Territory or in the United States. With the acreage on the Pacific Slope, averaging nearly three pounds to that of Wisconsin's one pound, it is no wonder that the Wisconsin acreage, since 1879, has fallen off nearly one-half, while that of the Pacific Slope, and especially of Washington Territory, is increasing enormously. It must be remembered that the crop of 1879, all over the country, was somewhat lighter than the usual crops, and that, perhaps, twenty per cent. may be added to the above figures to make a full, average crop.

CHAPTER XV.

SOIL AND CLIMATE OF THE HOP REGIONS IN THE STATE OF NEW YORK.

WE have already drawn attention to the fact that the great hop-raising counties of New York State, which produce more than half the hops raised in America, are in one solid block. From a point about 100 miles north of New York City, they extend northward about fifty miles and westward about 150 miles. The climate is cold in winter, the mercury often reaching twenty to thirty degrees below zero in the coldest weather. In summer it is seldom oppressively hot, but the seasons open early and the frosts come late, (not often before the 1st of November) so that the hops have plenty of time to develop and mature.

The face of the country is made up of great rolling hills with the valleys between, and generally from 500 to 1,500 feet above the level of the sea. These great hills are fertile to their very tops, taking kindly to sod and to all sweet grasses, and the region is famous for its dairy products as well as its hops. The soil is mostly a gravelly loam. There is plenty of limestone cropping out of the whole region here and there, and the small cobblestones which abound are largely fossiliferous, made up of the petrified remains of small shellfish, and to this circumstance I attribute a good deal of the richness of the hops grown on this soil. The yards are planted both in the valleys and on the hills, the valley-yards having sometimes a slight advantage in richness of soil, and the hill-yards a slight advantage in freedom from vermin. Most of the land is well adapted to endure drouth. It retains both water and manure; in other words, it is not "leachy," and this is a matter of the first importance, for nothing, will diminish the weight of a hop crop more certainly than prolonged dry soil in July and August.

CHAPTER XVI.

METHODS OF HOP CULTURE IN NEW YORK STATE.

THERE are almost as many different notions about every branch of hop culture, as there are growers, but it would take too much space to describe them all, however interesting and profitable. I shall only attempt to give those methods which have stood the test of long experience, and which are adopted and practiced by our largest and best growers.

(1). PLOWING FOR NEW YARDS.
Where the soil is deep enough the subsoil plow is sometimes used, and with good results; but generally the sod is turned under early in the fall, with an eight or ten-inch depth of furrow, and then in the spring, is cross-plowed and well harrowed to pieces. Potatoes or corn raised one year on land, before setting to hops, make a mellower soil the first year, but most prefer to let the hops have the first benefit of the rich sod. When the sod is not turned under early enough in the fall (and the 1st of September is not too early) to get well rotted by spring, good farmers do not disturb the sod by cross-plowing in spring, but harrow first lengthwise then crosswise of the furrows till the surface is mellow.

(2). ROOTS AND THEIR VARIETIES HERE.
'The standard hop in this section, and the one from which most sets are taken for new yards, is now the English Cluster. It is a strong and large vine, a good "climber," and bears a good crop of rich hops of a fine golden color when well handled.

The " Grape" Hop is a very rich hop, but the vine is not so hardy, or so strong a climber as the " English Cluster," and the "Grape" roots are seldom called for. The Humphrey Seedling is an excellent hop of fine flavor, and has come largely into cultivation about .Waterville, within three or four years, though it originated in Wisconsin. Last year (crop of 1882) the Humphreys generally came down with a rather light crop, as compared with the English Clusters alongside. But the Humphrey is a week earlier than the English Cluster, and came in contact, while just " in the burr," with a dry, hot spell which the English Cluster, being not yet in this critical state, escaped. Lice are very fond of the Humphrey, but the week earlier picking has so far rescued these hops from any special damage.

The Palmer Seedling is a week earlier still than the Humphrey Seedling, but though a fine hop, in quality, the crop is so small that roots of this sort are now seldom set out. The " Canada " Hop, from roots brought in here from Canada, is perhaps a week later than the English Cluster, at least it will "stand" a week later before picking, and on this account, added to the fact, that it is a fine hop of excellent flavor and a good bearer, the roots are sought after; but care has to be taken to get the" True Canada," as there has been a "bogus" Canada sold which has proved a complete failure here. Roots have also been brought here from California, and small yards about Waterville, set with California hops, promise very well; but are not yet sufficiently advanced or extensive, to admit of a fair comparison with the established sorts already tested by experience.

Now with these varieties of roots before us, from which to select for a new yard, it must be borne in mind that it is a great object to extend the time for picking. In all hop regions there is a great scramble for pickers. The grower who can offer the pickers the longest job will have first choice. Then even if you can get plenty of pickers so as to sweep the hops off a large yard, when the hops are just right, you are limited again by your facilities for drying, so that with a large yard, all of one sort, the chances are that you will have to pick some of your hops too green and lose both in weight and quality, or else let some of them stand too long. To avoid this, our largest and best growers aim to get in from one-third to one-fourth of their acreage in Humphreys, and the balance in English Cluster. Some of the more enterprising and extensive growers are also aiming at a still later hop than the English Cluster. My neighbor, Sylvester Gridley, has what I consider a model yard in respect to varieties of hop and proportion of each, namely: five acres Humphreys, ten acres English Cluster, and five acres True Canada. This proportion, one-fourth early, one-half medium or main crop, and one-fourth late is very desirable for even a hop yard of moderate acreage, if good roots of these sorts can be obtained.