Indiana roofer hops on beer bandwagon

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Hops, an important flavor ingredient in beer, is in short supply. One local man decided to help the growing demand.

It’s harvest time at Hopknoxious Farm just outside West Lafayette — the first ever harvest for the first ever hops grown by a man who has never been a farmer in his life.

“I’m a roofer by trade. Over the last few years kind of turned entrepreneur. Roofing, real estate and now hops,” Koh Knox said.

Knox’s family bought acreage in Tippecanoe County because he needed the space for his roofing company. It came with 12 acres of tillable land.

“Kind of through the cold winter you can’t roof and we were wondering what can we grow other than hay,” Knox said.

He credits a relative with planting the seed of an idea.

“My cousin is in Purdue horticulture, so one night we were talking and hops came up, and I said, ‘You know what, let’s do it,’” Knox said.

“Right from the get go when they were talking about hops, we got involved and sort of walked through with them. We were able to suggest some varieties,” said Chris Johnson, owner and brew master of People’s Brewing Company in Lafayette.

He was waiting for Knox’s first harvest.

“What I hope to see out of Indiana hops, is some new varietals with some unique characteristics that we can use,” Johnson said.

Knox says despite the need, hops isn’t an instant cash crop.

“If you plan on growing hops, I would not plan on making money for at least three to four years,” Knox said.

It takes the plants that long to reach full maturity. But Knox said he’s in it for the long haul.

“I really think that it’s going to be awhile before the farming side catches up to the brewing side,” he said.

Despite the potential for future growth in the hops business, Knox has no plans to give up his roofing business. Though he does expect to double his hops crop next year. He hopes to plant 2 acres instead of 1.

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