Debbie and Kevin Lamson show their bines – not vines – which yield hops used in brewing local beer. — Karl Yu photo

Best of the City: Cedar hops found in Nanaimo’s best beer

Cedar Valley Hop Yards supplies breweries that topped the Best of the City survey

What grows in Cedar brews in Nanaimo.

A farm south of town can lay claim to contributing to the Best of the City, as Cedar Valley Hop Yards supply some of Nanaimo’s best brewers.

Debbie and Kevin Lamson started Cedar Valley Hop Yards in 2011 and provide hops to local brewers. Kevin said they started because of the burgeoning craft beer industry and the 49th Parallel is known for growing quality hops, but it depends on the variety. Some do well here and some don’t and Cedar Valley grows 16 types, he said.

“Mt. Hood does really well,” said Kevin. “Hallertau does well, that’s a German hop … We do have Centennial, that’s a popular hop, it’s more of a warm weather hop … but it does all right.”

Kevin said there are 7,000 plants at their yard and Debbie said there is a method to ensuring they grow properly.

“We’ve got to go through and train them up the bines to get them going,” said Debbie. “They’re actually called bines, not vines. I guess back in the day they called them vines, but the grape industry didn’t like that … you’ve got to train them and you have to go clockwise with them.”

Longwood Brew Pub, Best of City 2018 winner of the Best Place to Buy Craft Beer category, and Longwood Brewery, use Cedar Valley Hops. Graham Payne, brew pub brewer, said half of the beers brewed at the pub use Lamson-grown hops: Longwood Brew Pub’s India pale ale, Russian imperial stout, extra special bitter and its Irish red ale.

“It’s definitely a lot more hands-on,” said Payne about the benefits of locally grown hops. We get to go down and view the hops whenever we want … it’s just bringing that local flair to the beer.”

Harley Smith, Longwood Brewery head brewer, and said he was approached by the Lamsons five years ago, when Longwood was starting its commercial brewery. It is beneficial to use local ingredients, he said.

“The product has to be there first,” said Smith. “If the product quality is not there, then obviously we have to move around, but once you establish that, then the benefits just come rolling in after that. You get to go to the field, you get to see the hops grow, you have a relationship with the actual growers, so it’s from the ground up.

“You’re not sending your money away to some foreign, corporate entity. That’s probably the most satisfying part of it.”

Tyler Papp, head brewer of White Sails Brewing, a Best of the City runner-up, used Cedar Valley hops for White Sails’ Fresh Hop Harvest Ale last year, a beer using hops picked within 48 hours. He too sees the value in using local hops.

“It’s absolutely invaluable,” said Papp. “It’s hard enough to source what you need, let alone the pricing and what not, so it’s nice to see a lot of these smaller guys starting up again … it’s nice to see the smaller farmers emerging again and doing what they can to supply some local stuff.”

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