Hops Online Exhibit

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Chilliwack Museum and Archives

Growing Hops in North America

Early hop picking daysAlthough the hop vine is native to North America, cultivation did not begin until the 1620s. Early Dutch and English settlers brought their own rootstock and although Massachusetts, Maine and New Hampshire became the early centers for hop growing, New York dominated the industry for the longest period. Eventually hop production followed the migrations west, first to Wisconsin, then California, Oregon, Washington and British Columbia. By the 1860s, the first commercial crops were grown south of Seattle in the Puyallup area. By the 1890s hop growing had shifted to the dryer, interior region around Yakima, still one of the world’s largest hop growing areas.

In Western North America, hops were commercially grown in California in the 1850s. In Washington State, the first crops were grown by Ezra Meeker in the Puyallup River Valley, beginning in 1866. In that same year, Isaac Cloake and William Towner cultivated several acres on the Saanich Peninsula on Vancouver Island in British Columbia. As well, Squamish, Vernon and Chilliwack were becoming centres for hop growing in the west by the 1890s.

Early hop picking daysEstablishing Roots

The British Columbia industry traces its roots to the 1860s. The high cost of importing hops, mostly from California, prompted prominent Victoria brewer’s Arthur Bunster and Alfred Elliot to offer generous prizes for farmers successfully growing hops on a commercial scale. People like Isaac Cloake, Daniel Moses, Henry Wain, Rufus Horth, John Downey and William Towner took up the challenge and for the next thirty years, Saanich Peninsula, north of Victoria, became a hop growing centre. By the 1870s, 900 to 1,000 pounds/acre were being grown. Today yields are about 1,400 pounds/acre, about 7 bales, enough to make about 1.7 million bottles of beer.

An infestation of the hop louse in the 1890s and a world depression gradually eliminated the industry on Vancouver Island and Western Washington. By 1900, the Fraser Valley was emerging as the Canadian centre for this crop. By the 1940s, the Fraser Valley communities of Agassiz, near Chilliwack and Sardis, a community that is part of Chilliwack, were the largest hop producing regions in the British Commonwealth.

Online exhibit (c) Chilliwack Museum and Archives 2008. About the Exhibit