New York State Welcomes Its First Hop Specialist: Steve Miller

Morrisville, NY – Madison County’s Agricultural Economic Development Program, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Madison County, and the Northeast Hop Alliance are pleased to welcome Steve Miller, New York State’s First Hop Specialist.

In 1999, Rick Pedersen planted hops on his Seneca Castle Farm. Rick was the first commercial farmer to grow hops in NYS since 1954. In 2001, the Northeast Hop Alliance (NeHA) was founded to “explore the feasibility of re-establishing commercial specialty hop production in New York and the Northeast.”  In 2004, the same year that the New York State Brewers Association (NYSBA) was established, the Ithaca Brewery created their Double IPA, the first commercially brewed beer made with 100% NYS hops since the 1950s.  Since that time, more than a dozen growers have planted hops, resulting in approximately 25 acres in commercial production as of 2010.

Meanwhile, NYS Craft beer sales have grown substantially in the past decade. The craft beer segment of total beer consumption in NYS was roughly 3.5% in 2004, and has now surpassed 10%! Despite the growth in craft beer sales, many members of the NYSBA lament that they do not have access to NYS grown hops. New York craft brewers are looking for locally grown hops so that they can manufacture a unique product, unlike that made other places in the U.S. Tim Butler, the brewmaster for the Empire State Brewing Company, released his Empire State Pale Ale with 100% NYS grown hops from Foothill Hops in Munnsville, in 2010. Tim said: “the hops have a beautiful floral, citrus, and grapefruit characteristic that is typical for the style, but unlike any I have ever brewed or tasted before” (Syracuse New Times, May 2010

The NeHA has made tremendous strides in reestablishing the industry. Madison County’s Agricultural Economic Development Program, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Madison County, and NeHA received funding from the NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets and Assemblyman Bill Magee to purchase a hops harvester. The harvester is housed at Morrisville State College and available for use by NeHA members. NeHA has established a robust schedule of 2011 events (the complete listing of which can be found at: http://northeasthopalliance.org) including field day events and education courses.

Despite the advances, New York has lacked an educator able to work with growers on production problems ranging from trellis design to pest management to harvest. In late 2010, the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets awarded a Specialty Crop Grant to Cornell Cooperative Extension of Madison County to hire New York State’s first hop specialist. After an extensive search, the hiring committee selected Steve Miller.

Mr. Miller has extensive experience working with the horticulture and vegetable industry in New York, including expertise in the fields of horticulture, entomology and plant pathology.  He has worked with hundreds of growers in the areas of problem solving, marketing and planning. Through his career with various Cornell Cooperative Extension offices, Mr. Miller has taught many courses for growers including intensive 30-hour pesticide certification, and in-depth conferences for horticulture producers.

“This is an exciting opportunity to be able to work with such an enthusiastic group of Hop producers and brewers” said Steve Miller in a recent interview. “Hops were an extremely important crop here 100 years ago and the type of high quality aromatic hops grown in New York is in great demand by craft brewers. The industry is expanding production as quickly as possible and there is a need to develop information that is pertinent to the Northeast. I will be working with researchers in New York and Vermont to find the best varieties and production methods for hops in this part of the country. It’s an exciting job, and I’m already having a great time getting started.”

Madison County’s Agricultural Economic Development Program, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Madison County, and NeHA are pleased to welcome Steve Miller. If you or someone you know has a hop related question, Mr. Miller is available to help.

Steve Miller can be reached at: 315-684-3001 or Hops.Educator@gmail.com

For more information about becoming a member of the Northeast Hop Alliance or to learn about upcoming events, please visit: http://northeasthopalliance.org

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The Hops Specialist position would not be possible without support from the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets and the USDA’s Specialty Crop Program