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UMD, Flying Dog Partner on Beer Research

By Chris Carroll

With craft beer fans increasingly opting to “drink local,” as the saying goes, the University of Maryland has teamed up with the state’s largest brewer to see if farmers can grow beer ingredients locally.

Flying Dog Brewery, a Frederick-based independent craft brewer and the nation’s 32nd-biggest producer, is supporting multi-year trials of 24 strains of hops—pungent flowers that both flavor and preserve beer—at the Western Maryland Research and Education Center in Keedysville.

Most North American hops come from high deserts in the Pacific Northwest—a far cry from Maryland’s moister, more southerly climate. 

But the upsurge of small breweries means more Marylanders are planting hops. The UMD trials will help them know what they’re getting into, says Bryan Butler, the UMD Extension agent who’s running the experiment.

“We’re doing everything we can to make it work, but we’re also being realistic about it,” he says.

Maryland hops would mean easier logistics and direct communication with farmers, provided that the crop is competitive in quality and price, says Matt Brophy, Flying Dog’s chief operating officer.

The brewery went halfsies with the university for a harvesting machine at the test garden, and debuted an experimental beer made with UMD hops in its taproom. This spring it plans to market beers with hops from Maryland farms.

Maryland growers might find they can’t compete with the major production regions—or, Brophy says, they might discover a variety “that does excellently here, and results in a really unique beer.”

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