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Hop-Along Doug

Following the road less traveled, he found himself in a Hops Field



Farmer and business owner Doug Weber inspects the seven miles of airplane cable used to support his hops vines.

Photos by Douglas Foulke

Doug Weber navigates along the winding roads of Morris. He is wearing a wide-brimmed hat and a pair of field-worn jeans. We chat as he drives to the hardware store for a few parts to get his irrigation system running. Earlier in the day he and his team at Pioneer Hops transplanted young hops from the nursery to the fields and the new plants need a good drink of water. 

Five years ago, today might have seemed like a distant dream. After a career in media sales in Manhattan, Weber decided he needed a change. A fervent beer aficionado and local food enthusiast, he turned for inspiration to the then nascent craft-brew industry blossoming in Connecticut. It was 2013 and there were only 12 breweries in Connecticut but Weber wanted to be a part of what seemed to be a growth industry. And so he set out learning everything there is to know about hops farming. 

He began reaching out to brewers around the state, asking whether they would be interested in local hops. The response was the same across the board, they absolutely would, but under no circumstances would they be willing to lower their quality standards just to purchase locally. “Managing client expectations has always been a challenge,” Weber says. If he was going to make this work, he’d need to get it right. 

Fast forward to today, Weber is the sales agent for his own farm plus the three others in the state, including Smokedown Farm in Sharon. Together, they supply hops to Connecticut’s rapidly expanding market of craft breweries.

Weber grows three varieties of hops: Cascade, Chinook, and Centennial. The first two varieties turned out to be so unique and superior in flavor that Weber was able to patent his own varieties, CONNcade and CONNnook. 

One of the secrets to the success of his hops is the drying method. Weber’s hops are never subjected to heat. Instead, pumped air and a dehumidifier do the job. It takes longer this way, but Weber is sure that this is what helps maintain the remarkable pungency of his crop. 

Throughout 2014 and into 2015 Weber and his team worked tirelessly, preparing the land they rent from South Farms in Morris and constructing trellises with seven miles of airplane cable to support their crops. Each year the hops must be retrained in the spring and the weeds and runners sent out by the hops themselves constantly maintained. In 2017, most of Weber’s Chinook crop was wiped out by downy mildew, and there’s always the threat of pests. 

But that’s just how farming goes and none of it seems to be slowing Weber down. Having conquered the commercial market, he is beginning to open up the supply line to homebrewers. The single criterion: they absolutely must be in Connecticut.  

Weber credits much of this success to the teams he’s built over Pioneer’s handful of seasons.“We’ve been really lucky throughout the years, this year particularly, finding really good people to work for us.”

Weber has been on the lookout for the right situation to increase his crops. He’d like to add another 20 acres but so far the perfect piece of land to work has not materialized. Weber is patient and optimistic. The market in Connecticut is poised to continue its massive growth and Pioneer plans to grow right alongside. “What we’re creating are unique brewing ingredients that you just can’t find anywhere else.” By following his passions for locally sourced ingredients and a love of quality craft beer, Doug Weber and Pioneer have helped establish a new era in the Connecticut craft brew industry. 

 

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September 2018

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Cost: free

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View map »


Sponsor: Loft Gallery at The Smithy
Telephone: 860-868-9003
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Website »

More information

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Cost: Free

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More information

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More information

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Cost: Free

Where:
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Sponsor: Oliver Wolcott Library
Telephone: 860-567-8030
Contact Name: Victoria Kiszka
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Cost: Free

Where:
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View map »


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Telephone: 186-086-87586
Contact Name: Sharon Morrissey
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View map »


Telephone: 186-056-78302
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More information

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View map »


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More information

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Cost: free

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View map »


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More information

The Loft Gallery welcomes an exhibit of large-scale landscape and gardenscape paintings by South Kent CT artist, Lisa Brody. This show opens on Saturday, September 1st, and runs through Sunday,...

Cost: free

Where:
Loft Gallery at The Smithy
10 Main Street
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View map »


Sponsor: Loft Gallery at The Smithy
Telephone: 860-868-9003
Contact Name: Susan Newbury
Website »

More information

Scott Bond is pleased to announce three events to be celebrated with an opening reception on Friday August 24 from 6-8pm at “Byrde + the b” a full service hair salon, art gallery and...

Cost: Free

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Byrde + the b
10 Titus Road
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View map »


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Telephone: 212 255 6247
Contact Name: Steven Miller
Website »

More information

Joan Morosani and Susan Spencer are excited and honored to be showing together for the third time at OWL. They draw from different approaches and traditions, but feel that their paintings perfectly...

Cost: Free

Where:
Oliver Wolcott Library
160 South St
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View map »


Sponsor: Oliver Wolcott Library
Telephone: 860-567-8030
Contact Name: Victoria Kiszka
Website »

More information

Washington Photographer Philip Dutton’s dramatic photos document The Chief Bigfoot Memorial Ride of 1990, a momentous event that helped commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Massacre at...

Cost: Free

Where:
Gunn Memorial Library
5 Wykeham Road
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View map »


Sponsor: Gunn Memorial Library
Telephone: 186-086-87586
Contact Name: Sharon Morrissey
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

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Cost: free

Where:
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West & Woodruff Street
Litchfield, CT  06759
View map »


Sponsor: Litchfield Farmers Market
Telephone: (860) 000-0000
Contact Name: Kay Carroll, Market Master
Website »

More information

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Cost: free

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View map »


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Website »

More information

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Cost: Free

Where:
Oliver Wolcott Library
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View map »


Sponsor: Oliver Wolcott Library
Telephone: 860-567-8030
Contact Name: Victoria Kiszka
Website »

More information

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Cost: $50.00

Where:
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Sponsor: Washington Environmental Council
Telephone: 860-717-0819
Website »

More information

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Cost: Free!

Where:
Tapping Reeve Meadow
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Litchfield, CT  06759
View map »


Sponsor: Litchfield Historical Society
Telephone: 860-567-4501
Contact Name: Kate Zullo
Website »

More information

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Cost: Freewill Offering

Where:
St. Michael's Parish
25 South Street
Just off the Litchfield Green
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View map »


Sponsor: St. Michael's-Litchfield
Telephone: 860-567-4456
Contact Name: Jo Ann Jaacks
Website »

More information

St. Michael’s Parish will present a special observance for their patronal saint on Saturday, September 29 beginning at 5:00p.m., with the doors opening at 4:30p.m.  The program, which includes...

Cost: Freewill Offering with suggested donation $20

Where:
St. Michael's Parish
25 South Street
Just off the Litchfield Green
Litchfield, CT  06759
View map »


Sponsor: St. Michaels-Litchfield
Telephone: 860-567-4456
Contact Name: Jo Ann Jaacks
Website »

More information

The Loft Gallery welcomes an exhibit of large-scale landscape and gardenscape paintings by South Kent CT artist, Lisa Brody. This show opens on Saturday, September 1st, and runs through Sunday,...

Cost: free

Where:
Loft Gallery at The Smithy
10 Main Street
New Preston, CT  06777
View map »


Sponsor: Loft Gallery at The Smithy
Telephone: 860-868-9003
Contact Name: Susan Newbury
Website »

More information

In Italian cuisine, a ragù is a meat-based sauce, which is commonly served with pasta or polenta. Traditional recipes are all meat-based and can be a mixtures of beef, chicken, pork, duck,...

Cost: $95

Where:
Hunt Hill Farm
44 Upland Rd
New Milford, CT  06776
View map »


Sponsor: Hunt Hill Farm
Telephone: 860-355-0300
Website »

More information

Scott Bond is pleased to announce three events to be celebrated with an opening reception on Friday August 24 from 6-8pm at “Byrde + the b” a full service hair salon, art gallery and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Byrde + the b
10 Titus Road
Washington Depot, CT  06794
View map »


Sponsor: Byrde + the b
Telephone: 212 255 6247
Contact Name: Steven Miller
Website »

More information

Washington Photographer Philip Dutton’s dramatic photos document The Chief Bigfoot Memorial Ride of 1990, a momentous event that helped commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Massacre at...

Cost: Free

Where:
Gunn Memorial Library
5 Wykeham Road
Washington, CT  06793
View map »


Sponsor: Gunn Memorial Library
Telephone: 186-086-87586
Contact Name: Sharon Morrissey
Website »

More information

The Farm-Fresh Market was created in 2007 with 15 local vendors, and has grown over the years to become a staple of the Litchfield Hills community throughout all seasons. We were so proud to be...

Cost: FREE

Where:
Center School Parking Lot
Woodruff Lane
Litchfield, CT  06759
View map »


Telephone: 860-567-3871
Website »

More information

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