COLUMBIA CITY — A lot more goes into making a beer than most people may be aware.
The hops – the base of the beer – are combined with barley, water and a great deal of knowledge to make a good beer. Recently, Chapmans in Columbia City hosted the release of a limited beer that was made with hops grown in Columbia City.
Root 9 Hops, a company started by Bob and Leslie Von Seggern, began out of a collaboration with Leadership Whitley County.
“My wife was doing it at the time, and her team’s project was about how to bring business into Whitley County, and the project was for beer distributors, microbreweries and hop growers,” Bob Von Seggern said. “They actually brought together Chapmans and a bunch of other brewers and had a get-together, and that’s where it got started.”
This collaboration eventually led to the Root 9 Wet Hop IPA, a limited edition beer at Chapmans that was first served Nov. 3. A wet hop is a special brew that takes less effort to create, which was perfect for Von Seggern’s limited experience and equipment.
“A wet hop is a great beer. It’s a way for brewers to bring people in because it’s a different kind of beer. It’s so hoppy, if you want to know what hops are, have a wet hop beer,” he said. “It’s as fresh as you can get, because you take the hop right out of the field and put it in the batch.”
While Von Seggern has been a long-time farmer, this was his first time growing hops.
“We planted another 1,000 plants this fall,” he said. “My yield this year was a couple hundred pounds, but I wasn’t expecting to have anything the first year because it takes about three years to get up to full production for a hop plant. I was just happy to have some to build good will with local brewers.”
The good-will built was just a small piece of the social atmosphere surrounding small hop growers, as Von Seggern explains.
“The social side of it for me is that the guys who hops just want to sit around, talk about hops and have a beer,” he said.
Many of these hop gurus willingly and happily share their knowledge about hops and various beers, and while Von Seggern had little to no experience with them the growers and brewmasters were more than happy to offer their advice on what hops to grow and how to grow them.
“There were a number of [hops] that they nominated to grow and it took off from there,” he said.
The relaxed social atmosphere continued when the Von Seggerns harvested in the fall. After hiring a hop harvester from Michigan to help, Von Seggerns brought the workers with him to Angola to make the batch.
“We harvested, I drove [the hops] up to Angola and got to dump them in the batch. I told the harvesters to stop on their way home because they were having a big roast and a band,” he said.
While Chapmans no longer has the Root 9 Wet Hop IPA in stock, Von Seggern hopes to have another batch ready next year, and plans to continue growing hops.