FeBREWary, the month-long celebration of Maryland craft beer, has never been more exciting in Frederick County. Milkhouse Brewery at Stillpoint Farm, in partnership with the Brewers Association of Maryland, University of Maryland Extension and Grow & Fortify hosted the release of three new brews made using Maryland’s first genetically unique hop, grown right here in Frederick County. On February 7, the Monocacy Hop Beer Release event hosted passionate partners and stakeholders throughout Maryland’s thriving craft beverage industry to commemorate the celebration.
2022 Frederick County Ag Advocate of the Year, Dr. Ray Edigar discovered this native hop on his Green Spring Farm in Thurmont. This hop was unlike any other he had ever seen. It grew naturally, was incredibly healthy and full, and much to Dr. Edigar’s dismay, nothing he could do would kill this nuisance on his farm! Dr. Edigar connected with Tom Barse, owner of Milkhouse Brewery, and shared his experience with the hop. Due to the exciting nature of this discovery, Tom involved Bryan Butler from the University of Maryland Extension, and the Grow & Fortify team to see how to best handle this hop.
The team took steps to send the hop off for genetic testing at the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) science lab in Corvallis, Oregon and Bryan Butler propagated the plant to determine if it could be easily produced locally. Hops have historically been grown in the Pacific Northwest and have been known for being a difficult crop to grow on the east coast.
Genetic tests determined the hop was native to Maryland and genetically unique. Dr. Edigar was honored to be given the privilege of naming the newly discovered hop and with that, the “Monocacy Hop” was born. The team worked together to apply for grants through the Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA) and the USDA to study the hop, which they were thrilled to be awarded. Bryan Butler first planted this hop at the Western Maryland Research and Education Center (WMREC) farm in Keedysville in October of 2021.
In August of 2022, the Homegrown team had the opportunity to attend a field day at the WMREC research farm’s hop yard. There we were able to observe trellises full of Monocacy Hop plants and directly compare them to the plants of other hop varieties. Monocacy was beautifully vast, much larger and fuller than the others. Throughout the day, local growers, brewers and beer connoisseurs’ excitement for the Monocacy Hop’s potential amplified.
Much to everyone’s delight, not only was the cultivating and harvesting of Monocacy a success, so was the brewing. Newly appointed Secretary of Agriculture, Kevin Atticks, expressed the excitement of Monocacy being “a viable hop for producers in Maryland that can be produced sustainably in Maryland.” He also noted the quality brews that will be able to be produced from this hop to showcase Maryland beer. Three beers: Catoctin Heritage Vienna Lager, Catoctin Heritage Pale Ale and Catoctin Heritage American Lager were produced using the Monocacy Hop. Attendees at the release event were asked to review their favorite brew as part of the study required by the grant or, “in the name of science,” said Tom. He also noted that none of this could have been done without their brewer, Harry. Katie Stevens, Director of Workforce Development and Agriculture Business at the Frederick County Office of Economic Development (FCOED) said it best herself, “It’s exciting to see the partnerships that have come together to create three beers that could be a game changer for Frederick County Agriculture.”
Head on over to Milkhouse Brewery at Stillpoint Farm to congratulate the team on this outstanding accomplishment. While you’re there, have a glass of a Catoctin Heritage brew made with the Monocacy hop, while supplies last! For more information on all of Frederick County’s local craft breweries visit our website. Cheers!