Last year, I missed out on our visit to Tavistock during the harvest season, So I was pretty excited that I was able to go this time around. Since Tavistock is just half an hour drive west of Waterloo and the weather was cooperative, I decided to accept the challenge and ride my bike to the hop yard.
When I arrived at the hop yard, the harvest was in full swing and Kyle and his colleagues were bringing in the last bines of cascade hops. The smell was fantastic! Soon other True Grist members arrived and Kyle gave us a detailed tour through the hop yard and processing facility.
Tavistock grows six different hop varieties: Centennial, Cascade, Newport, Rakau, Glacier, and Heritage. Out in the field, Kyle walked us through judging the ripeness of the cones and explained what goes into growing hops in Southwestern Ontario. One number that stuck with me is that Ontario hop growers could supply 47% of the hop needs of Ontario craft breweries who currently only use 5% locally grown hops. This means that Tavistock has to export a large quantity of their hops (e.g., all of their Rakau is ship to the US). If you want to taste their hops, TWB and Hespeler Brewing Co have often beers with Tavistock hops on tap.
Tavistock also packages hops for 14 other hop growers in the region and during our visit they processed some Saaz hops. We finished off the tour with a Q&A session with Kyle and, of course, we shared some homebrew. We also got a chance to buy some freshly packaged hops as well as wet hops (I got myself some pelletized Centennial that I used for dry-hopping a week later). Kyle also told us that the Amarillo patent expires this year and thus will become available for hop growers in Ontario. That is definitely something to look forward to in the future!
Overall, it was a great trip and I learned a lot about the ins and outs of my favorite brewing ingredient. It was great to have some many True Grist members out at the hop yard. Special thanks to Kyle for hosting us and showing us around! I’m already looking forward to next year’s visit!