02/15/13 6:00pm
02/15/2013 6:00 PM
wading river hops for microbreweries

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO |
John Condzella hand-harvesting hops at his family’s farm in Wading River last August.

After this year’s first hops harvest proved too much to harvest at Condzella Farms in Wading River, fourth-generation farmer John Condzella has posted an online fundraiser at kickstarter.com to help him purchase a German hops harvesting machine.

The machine shakes plants’ bines free of hops, and then processes the important beer-making ingredient.

Since launching the online fundraiser last week (see video), Mr. Condzella has raised more than $8,000 of the $27,000 needed for a Wolf WHE 140 Hopfen Pflückmaschine.

There’s now just 23 days left.

“It has the ability to harvest an acre of hops in an 8-hour day with two people operating the machine,” Mr. Condzella said.  ”If hand-picking it would take about 500 hours for the same two people.”

It takes about an hour for a person to harvest one hops plant, he said.

The machine would not only benefit Condzella farms, but other hops producers in the area.

Mr. Condzella said he wants the machine to be used cooperatively for those area farmers already growing hops or hoping to grow them in the future.

“I get calls from farmers who are curious about hops and the potential to sell them to local breweries,” he said.

The project already has the support of breweries such as Long Ireland Beer Company and the upcoming Moustache Brewery, both in Riverhead’s Polish Town area.

“We’re so happy to support them and to be able to have them as a local hop farmer,” said Lauri Spitz of Moustache Brewing Company.

Brewers are looking at local hops as the next step for providing a truly local product.

“People love to drink local, but what they don’t realize is that most of the ingredients actually come from faraway places like the other side of the United States, the UK or the Midwest,” said Michael Philbrick, owner of Port Jefferson Brewing Company in Port Jefferson. “The ability to get hops that are grown in your own backyard, practically and use them as fast as possible and as fresh as possible is a giant asset to Long Island.

“It greens the community, it greens our process, above all else, it’s a fresher and more quality ingredient that I know exactly where it came from.”

Kickstarter.com provides a space for entrepreneurs to raise money for creative projects. If a given project does not reach its goal, no money is collected.

gvolpe@timesreview.com