Danelle Cutting: Many in NC making their own beer and wine

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 7, 2014

rowing one’s own food has started to become a popular trend. What is quickly becoming the newest rage is planting crops to make your own brew or wine. Here are a few questions we receive about growing certain specialty crops to make some unique elixirs.

Question: Can I grow my own hops to make my own beer?
Answer: Yes, you can grow your own hops and many people are trying it out. I will forewarn you, it is not the easiest item to grow, especially if you are trying to grow the hops used in the majority of beers. Most of the United States hops are grown in the Northwestern climate, which is drastically different than that of North Carolina. We have many problems with disease, heat, humidity and pests. Hops also need a large trellis system. The photos show some of the systems growers are trying out. On a side note, there are some rumblings about using native varieties of hops, but this research is very limited and most are not sure how the flavors will compare.

Question: Can I produce most of the ingredients I want to use in my brew and wine?
Answer: For the most part, yes, and I always encourage people to try growing as many items as they can. Some will produce better than others, but the fun is trying them all out. I do want to warn you in the usage of growing your own grains, commercial growers have them dried and inspected for specific toxins. The regular homeowner does not have the equipment to test for toxins, and it is something you cannot see with a naked eye. The toxins can be deadly, so we do not recommend using your own grain. Luckily, enough businesses in North Carolina have started to produce and provide local malted grains.

Question: I have heard of people using local apples to make liquor is this true?
Answer: Yes, North Carolina is actually home to quite a few distilleries and I recently had the pleasure of visiting one. That North Carolina distillery uses apples grown in Henderson County as the base of its products. It has become so popular, the company has had to increase production and helps keep the apple grower happy.

Question: Can I make my own and sell it to my neighbors?
Answer: As much as that sounds tempting, it is against the law. There are also quite a few rules and regulations even the home brewer must abide by. These are set forth by the N.C. Department of Agriculture and the local ABC boards. There are also some taxes involved. But for the most part, a homeowner is allowed to make 100 gallons of wine and beer per year, or 200 gallons of wine and beer if there are more than two members of the household. To make sure you are on the safe side, review the rules and regulations listed on the Department of Agriculture website: www.ncagr.gov/aglaw/alcoholic_beverages.htm
For more information on starting your own beer garden or growing fruit for wine, contact your local Cooperative Extension agent Danelle Cutting at 704-216-8970.

For more information on growing specialty crops, visit: www.cals.ncsu.edu/specialty_crops/