By DAVID DUPONT
BG Independent News
W.C. Fields made its debut in Bowling Green Monday night.
No, a cynical comic zombie W.C. Fields didn’t lumber into town. W.C. Fields is the latest brew from Bowling Green Beer Works, and the name stands for Wood County fields, because that’s where the grain and the hops needed to produce the pilsner originated.
Farmers, business proprietors, politicians, and those with a taste for craft beer assembled at the brew pub Monday to celebrate the new beer.
Justin Marx, the owner of Bowling Green Beer Works, said the beer was a labor of love made from hops and barley grown locally and brewed by Roger Shope into a traditional German pilsner, the “granddaddy” of American beers.
The celebration wasn’t just for its crisp taste with just a hint of those local hops, but for the doors the brew opens for local farmers. Some had come in from the hop yard at the Ag Incubator where hops had been harvested that day.
Brad Bergefurd, of the Ohio State Extension Service, said that hops provide another crop for small farmers without the large acreage needed to have a viable corn and soybean operation.
Hops are labor intensive, he said. Zack Zientek, who works at the Ag Incubator, testified to that. He checks the hop vines six times a day.
But the price they fetch, Bergefurd said, is higher than corn and soybeans.
Hops used to grow in Ohio, he said, until Prohibition killed the demand. Now the Extension Service is exploring bringing hops back to service the burgeoning craft brewing business.
He said when and another OSU professor first discussed the possibilities six years ago, there were about 30 craft brewers in the state. Now there are about 200.
The Ag Incubator site is one of three hop yards in the state the other two got funding through the Us Department of Agriculture. The funding for the Wood County site was eliminated, but the Hirzel family stepped up and provided the in-kind services needed.
Craig Martahus, of Haus Malts, said W.C. Fields was “taking us back in time” when beer was brewed from local ingredients. “We’re coming back to a real local product that tastes really good.”
He praised the barley grown by Ron Snyder of Pemberville for making that possible.
Snyder said he started growing barley because he wanted a crop other than corn and beans. Barley has multiple advantages. It is a winter crop that serves as ground cover and prevents erosion and keeps nutrients in the soil.
“He takes care of his soil,” Martahus said.
“What’s happening in Lake Erie is significantly impacted by the amount of corn that is grown,” he continued. “Corn requires a tremendous amount of fertilizer and that can run of into the water and cause the algae growth.”
Growing barley helps remedy that run-off, he said.
Martahus malts the barley. That means he lets the grain begin to germinate which releases the protein and makes it available for the brewing process.
Marx said that he sees Bowling Green Beer Works as building a sense of community within the neighborhood and within the network of those who supply the products needed to make his beer. The Beer Works brews numerous varieties in addition of the W.C. Fields. Those include 582 IPA, which uses the hops from the Ag Incubator, though, not all local grain.
“Everything we serve we make right here,” he said. His beer is also now on tap about 10 local bars and restaurants.