New York State hops, post-Repeal

“When Prohibition was imposed in the United States at the end of World War I, hop growing in New York was abandoned for good.”

---Shaun Townsend


(Below) Prohibition era classified ads, circa 1925.

Perhaps the line above should have more accurately read "all but abandoned" since hop farming in New York State continued through Prohibition into at least the 1950’s - albeit on a small scale and never coming close to again competing with West Coast.

(Below) Prohibition era classified ads, circa 1925.

Initially, local hop farmers hoped Prohibition would benefit them, since they were closer to the eastern urban population centers where homebrewing was expected to fill the desire for beer.

According to The Western Canner and Packer magazine, 2.5% (4000 bales) of the hops grown in the US in the Prohibition year of 1921 were from New York. The New York Times [5/14/1933] reported that even in 1932, the year before Repeal, NY growers harvested 60 bales (185 lbs@) .

Local hop dealer and businessman Martin Moakler (below) had been among the owners of the Bavarian Hop Farms, Inc.

Post-Prohibition, the NYS harvest in 1937 was 140,400 pounds, from 55 growers with a total of 235 acres. Very small compared to the US total of over 47 million pounds (1935) , but it was nearly double of NY’s total – 760 bales v. 450 the year before. [Daily Messenger, Canandaigua, NY, October, 25, 1937 “Increase Seen In Hop Yield”]

(See - NY State Harvest totals 1933-37)

1942's crop estimate during harvest was up to 1800 bales (the increase due, in part, to the shortage of European hop imports due to WWII). 1944's NY hop crop totaled 1938 bales (up 20% from 1943) from 54 different growers, with an estimated 500 acres planted. 1945 harvest would be only 50% of that total, 1005 bales, poor weather conditions creating yields per acre so low that some farmers didn't harvest at all.

New York State maintained a hop variety development program at it’s Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva NY, headed by Prof. J. D. Harlan, in the 1930’s and '40's. That is where Brewer’s Gold hops were developed for the US growers [Daily Messenger, Canandaigua, NY , 4/19/1937, “English Hop Promise Well - Brewer’s Gold Proves Excellent in Tests at Geneva Station” + Agricultural Yearbook, 1937, USDA] The Experiment Station maintained several hopyards, one in Waterville in the late ‘40’s.

(above and below) Various newspaper ads from the WWII era ONEIDA CHIEF HOP FARMS

Bavarian Hop Farms, Inc

Mid- Prohibition in 1925 a new corporation was organized to run the large "Bavarian Hop Farm" outside of Cooperstown, and had a variety of owner/partners during that time, including the pre-Pro owner Martin Moakler, NY hop dealers Robert Oppenheimer, Robert Heyman and Hugh Loewi, Philadelphia hop merchant Lester I. Dingee, as well as United States Brewers Association official Hugh F. Fox and NYC area brewer Felix Spitzner (both of whom were also officials of the American Society of Brewing Technology).

Powdermaker was formerly employed by the noted Geo. Segal Co. (below) which also dealt in NY State hops and ran a Malone hop ranch.

The Bavarian Hop Farm had supposedly been established in the 1870's by an unnamed brewery, and when local Cooperstown hop merchant Moakler was the sole owner won a medal for it's hops at the Chicago Exposition in 1911.

During Prohibition, Bavarian sold hops to the UK, to the US near beer brewers and, probably, to the homebrewing supply trade. It eventually grew to own 1000 acres of central NY farmland.

Pindar Brothers, William (left) and Henry, as pictured in a Schenectady newspaper article, 1939.

A local newspaper in the central NY hop region includes "HOP REPORTER" in its masthead in the 1930's

A 1941 newspaper reported that an unnamed Washington, DC firm had started a 120 acre hop farm in Waterville, NY.

Oneida Chief Hop Farms

An even larger New York state hop farm established in 1941 was the 200+ acres Oneida Chief Hop Farms in Bridgewater, southern Oneida county, managed and co-owned by "European trained hop raiser" and hop merchant/importer Alfred Baer, financially backed by the Continental Grain Company.

Proposed to be "...the largest scale operation ever undertaken in the long history of New York State hop growing", superintendent of the farm was Earl Hansen, formerly with Lloyd L. Hughes' Yakima Chief Hop Farms of Yakima, Washington.

Oneida Chief had over 300,000 “Saaz Seedless” and "English Cluster" plants and an on-site kiln (said, in one article, to be the largest in the world) that also accepted outside hops for drying. Late summer, 1944, they predicted a harvest of 200 thousand pounds.

(above) 1943 harvest ad

[BELOW] In 1948 Durwood Eisamen stands in front of his 100 year old stove used to dry hops in his farm's kiln. In his hand is "brimstone" - unrefined sulfur- which he is adding to the stove, the fumes of which were used to dry and bleach the hops before baling.

Edelbrew Valley Hop Ranch, Inc.

In 1946, the small (200k bbl. in 1947) Brooklyn, NY brewery Edelbrew run by the Hittleman brewing family bought Onieda Chief renaming it the Edelbrew Valley Hop Ranch, Inc., which they claimed in ads was the "Largest Hop Plantation in the East".

In the post WWII era, they would advertised throughout the northeast their use of Edelbrew Valley NYS hops for their Edelbrew Beer “The Beer That Grows its Own Flavor”. [Clinton NY paper 2/13/1947 + 1946 Edelbrew ads- page down for examples of the latter].

Edelbrew stopped operating the ranch in 1948, after which the farm continued to be run by the NYS Experimental Station in Geneva under the name "State Hops Farm" ("State hops" was a common term for New York State hops within the industry) until it was broken up and sold in 1950.

Segal Ranch

In 1941, George Segal, Sr. a NYC-based hop dealer, established a hop farm in Malone in Franklin County, well outside the central NY growing region in far northern NY State, 10 miles from the Canadian border. After WWII, Franklin county hop farmers would grow nearly half of the NY State hop crop - 526 bales of the 1,111 total in 1947.

In 1949, Segal purchased roots from Bavaria (left). Segal's NY hop farm was shutdown in 1959 after another blight attack. Segal also started a Yakima Valley WA hop ranch in the 1940s, which continues today. The Segal Ranch is famous for being the first commercial grower of the Cascade hop.---click on Segal Ranch

(Actor George Segal is the son of George Segal Sr)

Other Hop Farmers

"...using the choicest of new York State hops..."

(above and below)

2 brands from two of George Largay's breweries. In the pre-Prohibition era Largay had brewed NY state's famous Evans's Ale (Hudson Brewing Co., Hudson, NY) and worked for Molson in Canada during Prohibition. Largay would purchase 10,000 pounds of NYS hops from Martin Moakler in the week before beer became legal again in April, 1933.

Two brothers, A. E. Brandis and W. F. Brandis both operated hopyards on their farms throughout Prohibition and A.E. would have the largest surviving "old yard" in 1934 at 10 acres (of a total of only 25).

A. E., along with his son, would continue to grow hops on their Deansboro farm into the early 1950's when he was in his 90's- his primary customer said to be a brewery in Maryland. In a 1951 interview, Brandis claimed to have grown hops for 70 years on a farm that had grown them for 85 years, and was still using cedar poles rather than the more modern wire system.

Another of the longest-lived post-Repeal NY hop farms was that of the Pindar Brothers of Middleburg, who replanted 12 acres of their grandfather's hop field with cluster roots from California in 1933. Theirs were among the largest lots of NY state hops sold after Repeal, with 77 bales sold to hop dealer SS Steiner in 1934. By the late '30's, the Pindar harvest made up 25% of the total NY State crop, and claimed to have 100,000 plants. The Pindar Brothers last harvest year was 1951.

Other smaller NY state hop growers that continued into the post-WWII era included Warren Melvin’s 5 acres near Syracuse, the only hop field in Onondaga County in 1946 and Durwood Eisamen’s 6 acres field in Lenox Furnace, the lone Madison county hop farm by 1948. Melvin’s hops were purchased by Utica and local Syracuse breweries.

In 1950, Arthur Gray planted 2,500 hop plants on his Oak Hill farm with the help of J. D. Harlan.

A 1950 New York Times story also discussed an unnamed Malone NY hop farm (possible Segal's), unusual because of it’s location north of the Adirondack near the Canadian border – outside NY state’s largest traditional central NY hop region. Small crops were also reported in 1953 in Schoharie County.


The Oneida Chief - Edelbrew farm is still a hop farm and F X Matt recently harvest hops there. See The Saranac Hop Harvest Aug 16, 2011 at the F. X. Matt website.

The West End Brewing Co. (now F. X. Matt) claimed to be the largest user of New York State grown hops in an Utica Daily Press article in January, 1949 and was advertising their use of New York State hops into the 1950’s for their Utica Club Beer – “The finest imported and New York State hops go into U.C. Beer.”

Also in central NY, the Amsterdam Brewing Co. in that city advertised their Half & Half as "using the choicest of New York State hops". Amsterdam's owner and brewmaster, George Largay, also owned Connecticut's Largay Brewing Co. and used NY state hops in that brewery's flagship Red Fox Ale.

Fort Stanwyx Brewery in Rome, NY used the slogan "Made with Oneida County Hops". Ft. Stanwyx's owner, A. E. Ellinger, would personally tour and purchase local hops. The 1938 NY harvest's first sale was a small lot of early fuggles grow from UK root stock, bought by Ellinger from hop farmers P. N. Lewis and William Lally.

1938............... 62* 240 186,099

1940............... 55 210 205,000

1941............... 200 176,000

1944............... 54 533 375,740

1945 .............. [approx.] 185,000 **

1947............... 211,000 (1,111 bales)

1950 .............. 203,295

* 10 new growers, not yet in production

** Drought Year 1002 bales - due to "Adverse weather conditions"

Total hop usage (both domestic and imported) by the US brewing industry for the above period was 26 - 36 million pounds, thus the NY harvest was an insignificant portion (1% or less) of the US hop crop for these first two decades of the post-Repeal era. In the mid-30s after the increase in hop production which resulted from the Repeal of Prohibition, Oregon hop acreage was nearly 30,000 and California's was 7,800.

Sample of the US hop harvest on the West Coast in the post-Repeal year of 1941, statistics from the Hop Control Board: