When you hear the word "Community" what comes to mind? I first think about the small town of Manley, Nebraska where I grew up. For the longest time living in a small community to me was about helping each other out. As a young boy, I enjoyed helping out the older folks in town by mowing their yards or painting their houses. I also remember coming together for such events as cleaning up the town each spring. It felt good to be part of something!

As an adult, I have a lot of those same feelings wanting to get together with others who have a passion for the same things I do. Being a technology guy, I enjoy the opportunity to get to go to conferences to meet people and learn more about what they are doing. There is always something I can take back to the office and apply what I have learned.

Picture with my friend Jeff from a road trip to Scratchtown this spring.

Picture with my friend Jeff from a road trip to Scratchtown this spring.

This is my first year getting to spend a good amount of time out in the Nebraska Craft Beer community. I have had a blast getting to meet so many people that have welcomed and provided me with the chance to tell their story. Everyone in this community have been so nice! I have great respect for their passion and desire to help each other out. I never knew before starting my blog of all of the relationships that exist in this community between the brewers, hops producers, and other local ingredient producers. I have to admit, I get excited when I hear about local hops, honey, or popcorn being used in beers. Popcorn you say?  Popcorn Daze from Scratchtown is a great example of how communities in Nebraska support one another.


I really wasn't aware of just how far Nebraska has come in terms of growing hops until I met Bruce and Annette Wiles from Midwest Hop Producers and Katie Kreuser who is the Nebraska Extension Hop Program Coordinator from UNL this summer at the Great Nebraska Beer Fest. I think it is fantastic to see local hops being grown! I know that there has a been a huge investment in money, time, and research to get this up an off the ground. The fact that people in our state are helping to address the need for hops is amazing! The craft beer explosion has had a big impact on the demand for hops. In 2009, there were roughly 1,500 craft beer breweries around the United States. Now there are well over 5,000 craft beer breweries.  If you add to these numbers, the fact that IPA style beers have risen in popularity, the demand is higher than ever for hops!

Photo from Tweet from Tom Wilmouth Co-founder of Zipline Brewing.  In the picture are Katie Kreuser Nebraska Extension Hop Program Coordinator and Marcus Powers Co-founder of Zipline Brewing.

Photo from Tweet from Tom Wilmouth Co-founder of Zipline Brewing.  In the picture are Katie Kreuser Nebraska Extension Hop Program Coordinator and Marcus Powers Co-founder of Zipline Brewing.

Nebraska is blessed to have a couple of great organizations providing support for the community.  They are the Nebraska Hop Growers Association and the Nebraska Craft Brewers Guild.  Together with the Nebraska Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources (IANR) and Midwest Hop Producers are putting on the Second Annual Nebraska Grower and Brewer Conference & Trade Show.  The conference will take place on Thursday, January 18th and Friday, January 19th, 2018.  This conference is a great opportunity for learning and networking.  One other key highlight of the conference for many attendees is getting to participate in panel discussions.

From the 2017 Grower and Brewer Conference.  Pictured from left to right - Caleb Pollard - Scratchtown, Dallas Archer - Upstream,  Zac Triemert - Brickway, and Marcus Powers - Zipline

From the 2017 Grower and Brewer Conference.  Pictured from left to right - Caleb Pollard - Scratchtown, Dallas Archer - Upstream,  Zac Triemert - Brickway, and Marcus Powers - Zipline

Let's take a closer look at some of the topics to be presented. There are two tracks for the conference - brewer and grower.

Brewer Track

The brewer track this year has tons of amazing sessions that cover the topic areas listed below.  This is just a sample of some of the sessions for each topic area.

  • Business 
    • From Start-Up to Sale: Legal Planning for Each Phase of Your Business, Jonathan Wegner, Partner, Baird Holm LLP 
    • Digital Marketing, Scott Papek, Founder, The Hop Artist & Photographer, Papek Gallery
    • Crafting Your Beer Brand: Good Design is Good Business, Drew Davies, Owner & Designer, Oxide Design Co. 
    • Sustainability & Craft Brewing – A Perfect Pair, Richard Yoder, Chief Sustainability Officer, University of Nebraska Omaha’s College of Business Administration, John Stier, Sustainability Mentor, Brewers Association
  • Brewing
    • Introduction to Malting for Brewers, Brian Podwinski, President and Co-Founder, Blue Blood Brewing Company
    • Steven Pauwels, Brewmaster, Boulevard Brewing Company
    • Over-Attenuation in Dry-Hopped Beer, Marcus Powers, Co-Founder and Chief of Operations, Zipline Brewing Company
    • Brewer Discussion Panel, Marcus Powers, Zipline Brewing Company, Zac Triemert, Brickway Brewery & Distillery, Nathan Hoeft, First Street Brewing Company, Brian Podwinski, Blue Blood Brewing Company, Kim Kavulak, Nebraska Brewing Company
  • Science & Technology
    • Fermentation Science, David Peitz, Professor and Chair, Wayne State College
    • Technology and the Future of Draft Beer Systems… the Robots are Coming, Joe English, Owner and Operator, Sculpture Hospitality, Steve Anaka, Vice President, Bevchek
    • Micro Testing During the Brewing Process, Jane Caldwell, Assistant Technical Director, Midwest Laboratories
Midwest Hop Producers - from a visit this summer to their hop yard.

Midwest Hop Producers - from a visit this summer to their hop yard.

Grower Track

The grower track this year has an incredible mix of sessions that cover topic areas listed below along with a sample of some of the sessions for each.

  • Business 
    • The Real Cost of Hop Production, Rob Sirrine, Senior Educator, Michigan State University Extension
    • Whole Farm Revenue Protection Insurance, John Schreiter, Crop Insurance Solutions
    • Gleanings from the Nebraska Hops Quality and Productivity Evaluation Study, Stacy Adams, Associate Professor of Practice, Department of Agronomy & Horticulture, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
  • Growing 
    • Trellis System and Hop Yard Design, Dan Wiesen, Custom Farming & Installation Director, Empire Hops
    • Hop Diseases and Management, Kyle Broderick, Coordinator, Plant and Pest Diagnostics Extension Educator, University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension
    • Weed Management, Dan Wiesen, Custom Farming & Installation Director, Empire Hops
    • Small Scale Post-Harvest Processing, James Altwies, President, CEO & CTO, Gorst Valley Hops
  • Science
    • Updates from the UNL Hop Breeding Program, Keenan Amundsen, Associate Professor, Department of Agronomy & Horticulture, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
    • A Biological Approach to Quality Hop Production, Christopher Kniffen, Research and Development, Soil Works LLC
    • Soil Fertility and Hop Analysis Testing, Joe Sisco, Field Consultant, Midwest Laboratories

What People are Saying About the 2018 Grower And Brewer Conference

When asked what are you looking forward to the most for the 2018 conference, here were some of the responses.

Katie Kreuser - UNL. I’m approaching this conference a little differently this year, as I’m behind the scenes planning it. While I hope to learn more about what challenges are being faced by each aspect of the industry and how I can help to address those through my work, I’m also hoping to establish more connections with our growers. Our hop growers are spread out over the state of Nebraska, and visiting each farm hasn’t been quite feasible. I also look forward to some great talks to help me expand my knowledge so that I can do my job better and help continue the growth of hop production in the state.

Gabby Ayala - Nebraska Craft Brewers Guild.  This will be my first Grower and Brewer Conference and I'm just excited for all the awesome networking opportunities and idea sharing that will be happening. The idea of having so many passionate Nebraska growers and brewers together in one space is very exciting!  We'll have lots of industry experts coming in from all over the nation as well and that will be a great opportunity for our Nebraska brewers.  It'll be great not only for the brewers attending, but also for those coming to present from out of state.  The presenters will get to see how passionate, creative and innovative Nebraska brewers truly are!

Dustin Rutledge - Homestead Hops, Perfect Pour Magazine. It’s always a benefit for people from various parts of the industry to be in one place. We are looking forward to hearing from presenters and discussion panels that are experts in their fields, being able to talk to and learn from other growers and brewers, as well as enjoying the Omaha area.

Brian Podwinski - Blue Blood Brewing Company. I think the best part of the conference is two fold. First, there are new topics to learn about and gain experience from others. Second, getting brewers and growers together in the same room to meet, plan, and grow together!

Ryan Heine - 6th Meridian Hops. Its hard to quantify the 'most'... Obviously we are really excited to be a part of the growers panel and that our neighbors, Soil Works, will be there and presenting on the organic nutrition program that they are developing on our farm. Although, there are two tracks, I will spend my time split between them as we love brewing and attending some brewer tracks help us understand our customers better.  I'm excited to talk to David Peitz about Wayne State's new fermentation program and hear about the latest developments at UNL in brewing, hops, and malts.  And of course, I want to catch up with many of the other growers and brewers as well as meet the new ones!

Steve Bauman - Bauman's Hop Farm. Even though I been growing hops for ten years, I know I will end up learning something new and useful for me. I enjoy seeing old acquaintances an meeting new ones.

Jacob Robison - Dirty Dog Hopyard. The agenda is really outstanding and looking forward to both days, but as a grower I am really interested in talking with brewers about what varieties they like to use, what they are experimenting with and what they see on the horizon so we (all Nebraska Hop Growers) can meet their needs.

Marcus Powers - Zipline Brewing. When brewers gather, I find that some of the best ideas and knowledge are exchanged in the hallways between scheduled speakers. I learn an immense amount from each session, but it's usually matched by what I learn from casual conversations with brewers (new and old) throughout the conference. The synergy and ideas from these 'hallways sessions' are a value-added component of every great industry conference

This is a great opportunity to come get to learn and be part of the Growers and Brewers community of Nebraska. Whether you are currently grow hops or are thinking about it, you won't find a better place to get the information you need. Want a forum to ask the questions you have been dying to ask, then this is the conference for you! From a brewer's perspective, the knowledge sharing and networking over so many topics that impact your business every day is going to be fantastic! Both growers and brewers having the chance to guide the future of the Nebraska Craft Beer community, it doesn't get any better than that!