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USA - Rain cuts harvest of hops at local brewery nearly in half

Augusta County has seen more than 15 inches of rain this summer, and that rain has caused some issues for a Valley brewery.

Stable Craft Brewery grows a lot of its own hops, which have been damaged by the extensive rain and storms.

As of August 14, the area has surpassed 40 inches of rain for the year, putting 2018 in the top 30 wettest years on record for the Shenandoah Valley, even with four months to go.

Craig Nargi, owner and operator of the brewery, says they’re hoping to get about 1,200 pounds of hops this year. Typically, they hope for between 2,200 and 2,400 pounds. He says some of the loss is due to a field they cleared, but the rain has also played a large part.

“The rains are definitely affecting what’s going on on our farm this year,” Nargi said.

The months of May and June are a critical time for growing the hops. All of the rain the area saw meant the hops didn’t grow as much as they should. While water is important for growth, they also need good breezes, sun and variance in temperature — that didn’t happen with all the rain.

The brewery is hoping to be able to harvest their hops this weekend, which they had planned to do two weeks ago.

“We missed one harvest window already, and there’s a good chance that we could miss our second one, so we’re getting a little more damage than we want,” Nargi said.

Some of the damage is also coming from Japanese beetles. The brewery doesn’t spray chemicals on the hops, but they normally fight the beetles with soapy water, which prevents them from flying.

However, the rain has made even spraying the plants impossible.

There will still be plenty of beer to enjoy at the tasting room — Nargi says he’s looking to work with other hops farms in the area to make up for some of the lost plants.

Visitors at the tasting room will also be able to see some of the hops that weren’t the right quality to be made into beer. Nargi adds that it’s a chance for people to learn more about the beer-making process.

“People have never seen a hop grow, they don’t know what it looks like, they’ve just heard about it. And you’re just adding another element to connect them to the agricultural aspects of a farm brewery.”

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