At The Hops

Doug Weber grew up in Wilton. But as a teenager in the 1970s he spent as much time as he could in Westport. Remarkable Book Shop, the pizzeria and library — all attracted him. (So did the seemingly endless stream of gorgeous girls.)

Doug Weber

Doug Weber

He grew up, got a job in media sales and married a woman named Carey. By 1994, they and their daughters Emily and Charlotte had outgrown their New York apartment. Like so many others, they looked in Westchester, and up and down the Connecticut coast, before deciding on Westport. They bought a house in foreclosure on Bridge Street.

So far, a pretty typical story.

Yet after 18 years of commuting, Weber wanted a new opportunity. But what?

Fascinated by 2 rising forces — the locavore movement, and the growth of craft beer — he created his own.

In June, Weber and a crew planted 5,000 hops, on 5 acres of land in Morris in Litchfield County. It’s the 1st step in his new venture: Pioneer Hops.

Connecticut brewers, it seems, are eager for local sourcing.

Pioneer Hops, in Morris.

Pioneer Hops, in Morris.

You and I may not think of the Land of Steady Habits as prime hop-growing territory. But before Prohibition, much of America’s hops were grown here. Today, 95% of America’s hops come from the Pacific Northwest, where there are fewer pests and diseases.

It takes 3-4 years for plants to mature. That’s when Weber hopes to sell them to Connecticut’s three dozen small breweries. In addition to selling craft beer through local retailers, many supply farm-to-table restaurants.

Weber looks forward to reviving our hops-farming tradition. (Which lives on in place names like Devil’s Hopyard, Hop Meadow and Hop Brook.)

Here’s hoping his business will be hopping.

6 responses to “At The Hops

  1. Good luck to him. Now I know why “hops” are in so many CT names….

  2. Susan Gunn Bromley

    You can still see the hop mounds running the length of the park next to the Westport Historical Society.

  3. Go Doug!

  4. Doug and Co. are all in on this venture. Can’t wait for the harvest!

  5. I’m a little late with this but wanted to add this information to Sue’s comment above. The upper story of the Cobblestone Barn at Wheeler house, we believe, was designed for the purpose of drying and storing hops. On the left side of the building, there is a small flue designed so that the upper story could be gently heated to promote slow drying of the hops. The ceiling of the building is plastered to keep out rodents.