Dan Kane chats with the guys at Second Sons Hopyards.While longtime friends Mike Schiltz and Kevin Rice have found success growing hops for Ohio breweries, their Second Sons Hopyards operation is less a business venture than a pastime.
“For us, it’s not about making a living doing this,” Schiltz said. “We’re beer lovers, and to sit down and drink a tasty beer that has ingredients that we grew makes it all that much more enjoyable.”
The men have about 500 hops plants on roughly a half acre of land in Marlboro Township. Schiltz until recently owned his own commercial videography company. Rice is a professional landscaper for Rice’s nursery.
Q. For starters, tell me about hops and beer.
A. “There’s technically four ingredients in beer: malt, hops, yeast and water. If it’s beer, it has hops in it.”
Q. How did you get started growing hops?
A. “Five years ago, I really started thinking about going into commercial brewing. The more I looked into it, the less interested in it I was, but at the same time, I kept coming across information about growing hops in Ohio. Two years ago, I attended a conference on hops growing at the OARDC (Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center) in Wooster, where they were having success growing a test plot of hops. I relayed this to Kevin, and we decided to give it a try. Kevin, being in the landscape business, has a lot of experience with growing things, and I was a home gardener.”
Q. How big are hops plants, and what do you do with them at harvest?
A. “Once a year, we cut down these 20-foot-tall vines of hops—they’re pretty impressive plants—put them on a flatbed truck and immediately drive them up to another farm in Wadsworth (Barn Talk Hops), about twice the size of ours. They made an investment in processing equipment. The most common form of hops a brewer uses is pelletized, which looks like rabbit food.”
Q. What was your harvest yield in 2016?
A. “Last season, we (yielded) approximately 1,000 pounds of raw wet hops. Our first year, we got maybe 30 pounds. It’s a plant that takes three years to really mature.”
Q. Are there different types of hops?
A. “There’s a huge variety, and they’re constantly working to develop new strains with new flavor profiles. Most of our hops in the ground are called cascade hops. Cascade is considered a workhouse hops with a really good flavor profile, and it grows well in our Ohio
Q. Which breweries are using Second Sons hops?
A. Royal Docks (in Jackson Township) has been a fantastic partner. The brewmaster there, Dave Sutula, is a fantastic brewer, and he loves the idea of using local ingredients. He just bought malt from a Cleveland malt house. We’ve sold to Hoppin’ Frog and Aqueduct in Akron, Barley’s down in Columbus. We just delivered some to Brick and Barrel up in Cleveland.”
—Dan Kane | photos by ray stewart