Hops growing on the minds of Appalachian agriculture
(Smoky Mountain News) Heidi Dunkelberg is determined to make hops synonymous with Western North Carolina. “I’ve got to figure it out,” she said. “There’s just got to be some way, there’s just got to be.” Dunkelberg owns the Coffee Cup Café in Clyde, but she also runs H&K Hops Farm in Beaverdam. Coming into her sixth year of growing hops — a key ingredient in craft beer — she’s pushing the boundaries and expectations of someone being able to actually produce hops in this mountainous region. “We’ve just got to keep moving forward,” she said. “We need to keep getting more people involved, keep working with local brewers, doing the right thing, which is quality over quantity.” Dunkelberg isn’t alone in her quest. Amid the recent craft beer explosion in Western North Carolina, where dozens of breweries have seemingly emerged on every Asheville street and in all the region’s small towns, the area is now an epicenter for the industry. That sudden influx of business and interest has also shifted the need into overdrive for hops, grains, malts and other materials used in the brewing process.
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