Beer lovers and local business supporters alike came together last Saturday at the Mighty Axe Hops farm for The Mighty Pick, a fun and informative afternoon of picking hops and drinking beer in celebration of the year-old farm’s second harvest. Led by Mighty Axe CEO Eric Sannerud, the event served as a glimpse inside the farming process for the young yet knowledgeable farm.
Located about 45 minutes north of the Twin Cities in Ham Lake, the Mighty Axe’s middle-of-nowhere setting didn’t deter a crowd of just under 50 from arriving. The atmosphere was convivial as guests worked together picking hops from the bine (like a vine, but with a different growing pattern) to prepare them for shipment to local brewers. Sannerud was upfront about the fact that the small operation needed outside help to accomplish the picking process, and the crowd was indeed game. The hops themselves, which resemble a cross between an artichoke and a pinecone, were very fragrant and evoked the distinctive bitter taste they bring to beer. Their smell lingered in spite of protection from rubber gloves, and their bitterness was noticeable in the sample brews provided by Elevated Wine and Spirits.
Sannerud led a brief tour around the six-acre farm, explaining how these plants go from the bine, distinctive for its helix-like growing process that differs from a vine’s tendrils, to the beer bottle. First and foremost, the amount of hops needed for any given beer depends on the make. Typically, Sannerud said, a barrel of beer requires 1½ pounds of hops while IPAs and other bitter beers require four to six pounds, which accounts for their higher prices and characteristically hoppy taste. Hops are also on a strict timeline; they become more flavorful and bountiful the longer they grow, but fresh hops need to be used within 24 hours of when they were picked.
The Mighty Pick is just one of Mighty Axe’s community outreach efforts, which Sannerud sees as invaluable to the process of running a farm. During the tour, he pointed out one row as a designated University of Minnesota research plot. He also mentioned a soon-to-be-launched Kickstarter campaign to fund a farm tractor. His passion for his work was never more apparent than at these moments, as well as when one guest asked about the best part of his job: being able to “reengage with the family farm” as a fourth generation farmer. Though his company is young, their future seems bright with their attention to detail, eco-friendly and community-driven approach, wide knowledge base, and ambition that surely won them many new fans last weekend.
Mighty Axe Hops, 16501 Buchannan St. NE, Ham Lake, 952-201-4227, mightyaxehops.com