“Farm to table” dining has become a huge movement cross the county. But what about Farm to Tap?

In a celebration supporting local agriculture and generations working together toward a common goal, F.X. Matt Brewing Company and Wrobel Farms of Bridgewater hosted the third annual Saranac Hop Harvest Sunday.

Saranac_HH_Nick and Nick
Saranac Brand Manager Nick R. Matt and his father, F.X. Matt Brewing Company CEO Nick Matt – the fourth and third generations of the family business – join forces to pick hops at Sunday’s third annual Saranac Hop Harvest.

More than 300 people helped pick this year’s hops, which will be used to brew the limited edition Farm to Tap – Fresh Hop IPA, the second beer in Saranac’s recently re-introduced High Peaks line.

Farm to Tap follows Saranac’s recent release of Tramonay Vineyard Saison, which also uses unique local ingredients – New York-sourced grape juice from Cornell University.

“Gathering with other Saranac enthusiasts at this year’s Hop Harvest was a great way to spend a picture perfect Sunday in the Mohawk Valley,” said Saranac fan and Hop Harvest participant Mel Mogensen. “We picked hops until our hands were stained and sticky from the hop resin, we sipped ice cold Saranac beer and we had the opportunity to get to know some of the employees that will turn these freshly picked hops into a delicious IPA.”

A Family Heirloom

While some family heirlooms may include boring antiques, the Matt and Wrobel families’ treasures have a bit more swagger. Wrobel Farms, in their third generation of farm operations, has painstakingly cared for their heirloom hops, unique to this farm and continuously grown wild there since the 1800s.

Together with the brewing knowledge of the third and fourth generations of the Matt family, these six different heirloom varieties were observed to determine prime picking time for the ultimate flavors and aromas.

As the different heirloom varieties were picked on the day of the event, the brewers tested the hops on the grounds of Wrobel Farms to determine which ones would go right in the brew kettle Monday, and which would be refrigerated for dry hopping in the final stages of brewing.

“I think the pickers learned a great deal about the process of growing quality hops and making a stellar craft beer,” said Jim Wrobel of Wrobel Farms. “With the unique aromas filling the air during the harvest, the pickers certainly recognize where the flavor of a great beer begins.”

Since they all have very distinct flavors, some are best to begin the brewing process and create a great base flavor, while other varieties have stronger citrusy, herbal and fresh green notes, making them the ideal hops to be used in dry hopping for the wonderful aroma beer drinkers have come to love from Fresh Hop Ales.

Because these hops will never be processed or bailed, Farm to Tap will boast an excellent aroma with a dry, citrusy taste and fresh leafy greenness brought on by this unique process.

“This event is a wonderful way to bring the farm, brewery and consumers together as close partners,” Wrobel said. “I’m really looking forward to the unveiling of the Fresh Hop IPA in a few weeks. That will put an exclamation point on this entire season.”

Supporting New York State Agriculture Despite All Costs

Hop Harvest began in 2011 as a way to celebrate history and help reinvigorate the New York State hop industry. From 1888 through the 1900s, the Matt family used local hop farms for ingredients to brew its famous award-winning beers.

“I can remember visiting farms every Sunday with my grandfather (and company founder) F.X. Matt to pick out and buy the hops for the week,” said company CEO Nick Matt. “I have fond memories of the two of us out in hop fields – him showing me how to choose quality hops.”

F.X. Matt Brewing Co. has worked very closely with Wrobel Farms, originally owned by the Shaul Family and founded in the 1860s.

For several years, Wrobel tested different varieties of hops with hopes of expanding his crop enough to support the amount needed to make a Saranac brew. That hope came true in 2011 when Jim and F.X. Matt Brewing Co. hosted the first hop harvest using the bounty to brew Saranac Wet Hop IPA.

Though supporting local comes with a cost – roughly 10 times higher than purchasing hops elsewhere – F.X. Matt Brewing Co. firmly believes in supporting statewide agriculture.

“It has always been our goal to brew beer using as many local ingredients as possible,” said company President Fred Matt. “With these hops grown less than 20 miles from the brewery, we’re going to be able to continue to support yet another local business while brewing our beer.”