Small batch, local microbreweries are popping up all over the country, giving us an opportunity to spend our hard earned dollars close to home, supporting our local economies. Luckily, Berlin can be part of this trend with our very own brewery, Burley Oak. This newer Berlin business has become a place to meet friends, old and new, and drink good beer. Burley Oak Brewery has recently taken the idea of community to the next step with their Community Hopped Beer Project.

This is the inaugural year of the project and gives local beer lovers the chance to contribute to the beer they love. Burley Oak is distributing hops rhizomes to the community to take home and grow in their home gardens. By October, when the hops are ready to be harvested, Burley will collect them and brew a one of kind beer, full of a sense of community. What better than to invest in a local business than the time and love spent cultivating something in the earth?
Hops are one of the main ingredients in beer and impart a tangy, bitter flavor. Their cones or flower clusters grow on a perennial vine and are used to balance the sweetness of the malt.  These will come back year after year, making Berlin a little greener with very little more than full sun and a plentiful supply of water.  The many varieties are used in unique combinations to create new beer varieties.  We picked up Cascade hop rhizomes.  This very popular North American hop is described as flowery, spicy, and citrus-like.
From the beginning, a main focus of the brewery, according to their website is to focus on sustainable practices and use local materials and craftsman.  This project furthers this goal, allowing many more local people to become involved in the brewing process, growing their hops in a sustainable way, and knowing exactly what is used to make the beer they are drinking. Hidden Oak Farms in Whaleyville, MD supplied the hops rhizomes. Other hops used in Burley beers, like the Zeus hops, are farmed locally by farmer Jeff Brown. Brewing small batches gives the boys at Burley an opportunity to make custom, always changing, flavors with these materials.
This is a great way to get people in the community excited about a local business and to provide education about the brewing process. It also encourages gardening and land conserving practices in the area-a great way to get your hands dirty and be part of something bigger. Contributors will have an opportunity to suggest names and style of brew when the time comes. We picked ours up at the Berlin Jazz and Blues Bash and are excited to get started.  We were told it was a good one- it has worms! Contact Burley Oak for more information.  Hops are offered on a first-come, first-served basis.
Photos by Todd DeHart.