The Fir Farm, beloved cut-your-own Christmas tree farm of Coltsneck, NJ, has been providing the state with Christmas spirit and real trees for decades. "What does it have to do with beer?" you ask. Well, as of two years ago, The Fir Farm has also been planting hops! Intrigued, I decided to go check it out last week.
When I arrived, Bob welcomed me to the farm and was kind enough to give me a tour (even though I showed up on the one day it poured!). He showed me the different hop fields and pointed out each variety we passed, explaining how each variety looks different. (Fields included Nugget, Chinook, Columbia, Centennial, Cascade, Mount Hood, Tettnang, Willamette and Sorachi Ace!) As I walked through rows of hops, I was surprised to see 18 foot bines. Cones were already forming and newer plants were lush with burrs. Some bines even had arms which surpassed the length of my own!
Their secret? Bob gives credit to the natural greensand deposits found in Colts Neck. The Fir Farm is 100% natural/pesticide free, relying heavily on the Garden State to do its thing. The iron potassium silicate found in the area is known to loosen clay and increase moisture by ten times. It is also said to include traces of up to 30 different minerals. Perhaps, the reason for such quick results? "Being retired men, doing what we love every day probably doesn't hurt it either!" He added.
Ater looking around the hop fields, I also asked to see the cider apple trees, at which point Bob was more than thrilled to tell me a story about Harrison apples. A style indigenous to Newark, NJ, the apple was thought to be extinct. A single apple found in Livingston, NJ (1976) was used to bring back the species (which are now planted on The Fir Farm, as well). One thing's for sure, these guys are extremely passionate about what they do and the area that they are working in. With years of history in agriculture, tons of new plants, and a great attitude, I'm excited to see what The Fir Farm brings to NJ's craft beer scene. I will be sure to revisit the farm during harvest in three weeks. Drink local, brew local!
- One Hoppy Lady