Craft beer explosion spurs resurgence in Chilliwack hops

Growers are scrambling to keep up with demand

Those distinctive poles strung with vines rising out of farmland across the Fraser Valley signify the resurgence of a crop that flourished in Chilliwack and Agassiz for more than 100 years.

And while the growing of hops fizzled out in the late 1990s, the craft beer industry has spurred its resurgence.

Hops are back in a big way, and local growers can’t grow them fast enough.

“We are effectively scrambling to keep up with demand,” Chilliwack Hop Farms president John Lawrence says.

Lawrence says they are the largest single hop grower in Canada with the sole purpose of supplying the insatiable craft beer industry.

Chilliwack Hop Farms is relatively new to the game. Chris Sartori started the Sartori Hop Ranch in 2009 in the Columbia Valley helping to spur the local resurgence of the crop. Sartori has seen considerable success, selling to both Molson and numerous B.C. craft brewers.

It was back in 1893 when Henry Hulbert began the Hulbert Hop Farm in Chilliwack, which served as the birth of an industry that flourished until 1997 when the John I. Haas Company finally closed its doors.

More recently Chilliwack Hop Farms started up and have quickly grown, erecting those distinct wooden poles and cables on properties around Sardis and Greendale.

Hundreds of acres of hops are growing in the Fraser Valley with more plantations going in every season. Chilliwack Hop Farms provide hops to many B.C. craft brewers, including Tree Brewing, Dead Frog Brewery and, of course, local craft brewers Old Yale Brewing Co.

Lawrence points out that Central City out of Surrey alone goes through 150 acres of hops in a year. While that’s one of the bigger ones, it is just one of approximately 140 craft brewers in B.C. as of 2016.

Old Yale was the first craft brewer in Chilliwack and is by far the largest, but there is also Chaos & Solace located on Mill Street downtown. Some in the industry say more are coming soon.