Sipping a cold beer is how many of us enjoy ending the day, especially in the summer. What many beer lovers may not realize, however, is that hops--the ingredient in beer that imparts those lovely bitter, zesty, and citrus flavors--actually grows wild throughout Utah. Most likely a transplant brought by German miners, hops found in Park City have been harvested for years by enterprising local brewers. And now, thanks to the Summit Land Conservancy, the rest of us can take part in the cone-hunting fun, too.
For those unfamiliar with the Summit Land Conservancy, chances are that if you've hiked, skied, pedaled, or simply enjoyed a view free of development in the Park City area, you've benefited from this organization's efforts. The 2,600 acres throughout Summit County it's protected includes part of Round Valley, land along the Weber River, and many sections of the Mid Mountain Trail, to name a few. Another 3,000 acres is expected to be acquired shortly, doubling the amount of acreage under the conservancy's stewardship.
With the Summit Land Conservancy's popular annual Hops Hunters Hikes, participants can learn how to identify wild hops and other edible native plants while touring protected open space in and around Park City. (If you get really good, you may even be able to find hops in your own backyard and share them with other hop hunters through Project Noah, an app specifically designed for sharing photos of wild hops.) Two Hops Hunters Hikes were held in June. But, have no fear. There's still time to get in on the action by signing up for their next hikes which will take place:
July 10: Virginia Mining Claims Easement
July 24: Rail Trail
August 14: Prospect Ridge and Harvest Assessment
And that's not all. When the hops mature at summer's end (late August), the Summit Land Conservancy will set a harvest date and invite hop hunters to come out once again to help with collecting the green, cone-like flowers.
What happens to the harvested hops, you ask? They get to fulfill their manifest destiny and are brewed into delicious, refreshing beer, of course! All viable hops harvested are turned over to the brewmeisters at the Wasatch Brewery who, in turn, use the bounty to flavor the "Clothing Hoptional" beer, found on tap at the brewery's Main Street location, the Wasatch Brew Pub. And in October, the conservancy will throw a good old fashioned kegger, appropriately called Hoppy Hour, featuring the wild hops-infused beer. Cheers to that!!