Independently owned breweries and brewpubs are on the rise in Ontario with several brands of beer now being brewed in Ontario. With this industry growing so rapidly there is now a need for many more farms that will provide hops, the ingredient that is responsible for beer’s signature bitter, tangy flavour. It is this need that Nicholas Schaut has based his hops farm upon. Bighead Hops is located on the outskirts of Meaford just down the road from the Bighead River and is putting Meaford on the map in the beer-brewing industry.
Bighead Hops is now entering its eighth season of operation, but it took the community’s help to kick-start this business. Meaford’s Dragons’ Den competition sponsored by the Meaford Chamber of Commerce along with the town’s support gives local entrepreneurs the opportunity to come and pitch their ideas for businesses to a panel of business investors. Each investor brings $1,000 to go towards their favourite entry to help launch the business and Bighead Hops had what it took. The dragon’s look for businesses in retail, tourism, green and agribusiness and the hops farm meets all of these. In bringing hops from his farm for the dragons, Schaut received $4,130 cash plus advertising and mentoring for a grand total of $10,930 to go to his farm. Since then Bighead Hops has grown and improved on their business and I am sure will continue to do so.
Today Bighead Hops works very hard to grow the best possible hops for brewing. They have worked very hard to find the best hop varieties that suit local soil and our climate as every region has different qualities that affect any farm’s abilities to grow certain crops. They grow Cascade, Centennial, Challenger, Chinook, Fuggle, Golding, Hallertau, Magnum, Mount Hood, Northern Brewer, Nugget, Saaz, and Sterling hops. With their experience they have worked to find the best process for hop growing that works for them. At Bighead Hops this mean growing and caring for crops organically and harvesting them once they have peaked at their perfect maturity.
This hops farm also takes pride in conserving the biodiversity that surrounds them. Being located in the Niagara Escarpment there is an abundance of unique nature in the environment and they do everything that they can to not disrupt these ecosystems in their production. They have a very open dislike to and therefore do not use petrochemical fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides and are certified by Pro-Cert. Of course there are obstacles in electing to grow crops without these including disease and pest problems, but they work through these to continue to run their business as it has always been intended. It requires a lot of observation and physical labour as they are out in their fields every day ensuring the health of their crops. If, and when they do need to intervene they do so using natural methods and as minimally as possible to maintain their organic practice.
After the growing process and the harvest their hops are sent out to brewing companies to create great beers from names like Maclean’s Ales, Beau’s, and Les 3 Brasseurs. Pickup your own today and feel good knowing that that great taste came from home!