Craft beer craze is bringing more hops farms to Iowa

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SOLON, Iowa (KCRG-TV9) -- The number of breweries in Iowa has doubled in the last five years, and that's prompted many farmers to start growing hops in Iowa. Three years ago, farmers only raised 5 to 10 acres of hops in Iowa.
Last year, it was 60.

Horticulturalist Christian Petersen works at Buck Creek Hops in Solon. He explains, "The whole reason [owner Mark Pattison] started the farm was because of the craft beer boom. We're seeing it, we're getting calls all the time. People wanting to grow, people wanting to buy."

Pattison adds, "People are looking for an alternative to the conventional commodities [like] corn and soy beans. Many times when we talk to them, and tell them what it takes, they change their mind pretty quickly."

Millstream Brewing Company in Amana was originally known for its root beer, but craft beer cravings has them shipping more than 4500 barrels of beer per year.

One of the owners Chris Priebe says, "A few years ago, the distributors for the big breweries were given permission to sell craft beer in Iowa, or all over the country. That's one of the things that made a change."

He also credits a law change that made Iowa more beer friendly. He says, "It used to be you could only make beer that was 5.2 percent, whereas most craft beers are anywhere between 5 percent and 8 or 9 percent alcohol. So being able to brew those different varieties of stronger beers."

Pattison says the industry is on the incline, but thinks it may level off over the next couple of years.