When most of us think back to early days in Squamish, it’s forestry and trees that first come to mind, not hops and beer. That’s right, hops farming was Squamish’s first major industry.
Farms in Brackendale grew the plant and shipped it via Vancouver to Britain, where they used in the brewing process. Squamish helped keep the British Empire well-lubricated through the late 1800’s.
Origins of Hops Farming
The origins of hops farming in British Columbia began in the late 1860’s in the Fraser Valley. Two renowned brewers, Arthur Bunster and Alfred Elliot, decided to award prizes to local farmers who could grow hops so Bunster and Elliot could cease importing the plant from the United States.
British Columbia became the largest hop-growing region in the British Commonwealth.
Hops in Squamish
In Squamish, things got hopping in 1890, when a fellow named E.B. Madill began to dabble with hops production. Farms grew and business progressed; there were ten farms at the peak of production. The largest was Squamish Valley Hop Raising Co. (Bell-Irving Ranch). It was located in the Eagle Run.
Squamish was satiating not only Britain, but also thirsty drinkers in the United States as well as local breweries.
The last hops shipments were harvested here in 1912. The recession before the First World War and subsequent prohibition brought an end to production.
(That is until recently with Squamish Valley Hop Company rolling up Squamish Valley).
What Are Hops?
Hops are used to flavour beer. Hop vines grow from rhizomes and can produce for over twenty years. The flowers are picked in August and September. They’re then bleached with sulphur and dried in a kiln. Sulphur is used as a preventative of mildew, to colour the hops and bolster their aroma.
In 2007, a number of weather events damaged hops farms around the world. It was around the same time microbreweries were experiencing a surge in popularity. These two factors are giving us the wonderful uptick in hops farms and craft breweries.
See, “Hop Farming is Coming Back” for more information about this wonderful piece of British Columbia History.