'Tickel' me: see how beer farm puts Dayton hops in Ohio's beer capital

I’ve crowned Dayton as Ohio’s beer capital — and I am not the first.

The owners of AleFest, an annual downtown craft beer extravaganza, are among those declaring the Gem City the state’s rightful brew mecca.

→Dayton’s craft beer: A guide to breweries←

Jamie Arthur and Amy Forsthoefel with freshly cut hop vine. (Staff photo by Amelia Robinson)

Yeah, yeah, other cities produce MORE beer, but we do it better in Dayton and have more breweries per capita — 13 — than our friends in the Big Cs.

Proof that Dayton is beertastic can be found in the fact that businesses are popping up to serve the growing industry.

One such business is Little Miami Farms in Spring Valley.

Jamie and Kristia Arthur — the farm’s chief hoperating officer and eternal hoptimist — and their partner Dayton resident McPherson Town resident Amy Forsthoefel, the head of marketing hoperations, recent harvested from 500 plants in a half-acre chunk of the 75-acre farm.

Little Miami began planting hops in 2014 and is only one of two Greene County farms doing so.

Jamie Arthur says the other farm, Spanky’s Hops Farm in Jamestown, started planting hops — the green flower that gives beer that bitter, tangy taste — around the same time.

He estimated there are only about 50 hop farmers in the state, including five in counties that touch Montgomery County.

Little Miami has been producing corn, soybeans and hay since 2002. It began experimenting with barley for beer this year.

Little Miami Farms hops and barley. (Staff photo by Amelia Robinson)

More and more people want to know where the ingredients in things they eat and drink originate.

Likewise, Jamie Arhur said farmers want to know where their food goes.

“We don’t know if it becomes corn oil or seatbelts,” the retired business development director at Teradata said.

He’s been a full-time farmer for a year.

Forsthoefel said local ingredients naturally add another level of integrity to declaring a beer local.

“You can make it local, but why not make the ingredients local, too,” she said.

Fifth Street Brewpub will unveil its fresh-hopped pale ale Tickel Me Hoppy on Friday, Sept. 18.

Named for the pub’s General Manager Dave Tickel, the beer is made from 30 pounds of fresh hops from Little Miami. It is the first time a brewery has made a beer only with hops from the farm.

“They took a chance with us,” Jamie said. “I would call it a major achievement for a little grower like us.”

Amy Forsthoefel says the seed for hops was planted three years ago.

“We brainstormed all kinds of crazy things,” she said.

The craft beer scene was exploding in Portland, Ore., where Forsthoefel has a brother.

A March 2012 change to Ohio law opened the door for the craft distillery and brewery, now making hometown beer and spirits around the state and Miami Valley.

There is great potential in hops.

Jamie Arthur constructed 20 feet tall pole system to grow his hops. (Staff photo by Amelia Robinson)

Ohio beer makers send an estimated $4 million out of Ohio by purchasing out-of-state hop plants, according to the research farm at Ohio State University South Center in Piketon focused on both production and marketing of hops.

Amy said hops are not unheard of in Ohio.

There were hop and barley farms up and down the Great Miami Valley during the peak of the breweries in this region in the 1880s and 1890s, she said.

Prohibition helped dry up the industry.

“It is not a new crop for Ohio, but we haven’t grown it for 100 years,” she said.

See something, say something. Contact this blogger at amelia.robinson@coxinc.com or Twitter.com/DDNSmartMouth

This column first appeared on Dayton.com.

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