With an abundance of arable land, an increasingly motivated farm to table food scene, and an array of seasoned culinary creatives, the Comox Valley has long since made its mark as a food and beverage destination for locals and tourists alike.
Whether you’re a grower, a restaurateur, a chef, or just love to eat—and drink—you’re invited to play a part in this culinary culture. You’re needed, and necessary, pieces of the palatable puzzle.
One such piece of the puzzle is Daryl Granger—part-time hop grower and full-time beer lover. Simultaneously willing to sell small amounts of hops and shell out valuable advice to the unseasoned home brewing amateur, and service the higher volume needs of local tap rooms, Daryl knows how to grow.
“If I could get a couple people who read your article to buy a couple rhizomes… and start growing them in the backyard for fall brewing, well that would be great,” exclaims Daryl. He sells off the top of his personal crop, but an increasing demand for island grown hops suggests that there’s room for business to grow. More breweries are steering toward using as much organic, close-to-home grown ingredients as possible.
Before our favourite local breweries had hung their open signs, Daryl was providing our community with a variety of favoured hop choices including Cascade, Centennial, Nugget, and Zeus. His crop resides down the back roads of Merville where he says they’re more than happy to grow. “You don’t have to look very hard to see that hops do well in our region,” Daryl continues. “Howard Road has a big swath of them growing on the side of the road, as does the base of the Cumberland mountain bike trails… If you give them some water and something to climb, they’re ecstatic.”
Daryl’s plants grow on a small acreage. But, since hops grow best vertically even an interested urban grower can successfully produce a usable crop with very little soil space. “The climate here is great for hops,” Daryl explains.
“They’re up now and ready to go, and will be well set before we get to the heat of the summer. Slugs in the spring are easily controlled and the occasional cool damp evenings in the late summer can be a bit of a problem with hop mildew, but the plants are pruned to mitigate this. I water occasionally over the summer depending on conditions, but hops are very hardy and don’t need a whole lot of help once they are on the line. We have a fair amount of ladybugs in our space, which helps with aphids.”
Whether you’re looking to explore the area in search of wild aromatic magic for your next batch of beer, to grow your own, or to buy some cones from a fine gentlemen such as our friend Daryl—the Comox Valley is ripe for the picking.