Road Journals Blog—If you drink beer, you’ve probably heard of hops .
The auspicious history of hops in beer brewing stretches back to Germany, in 1079. Before then all kinds of bitter plants—including dandelion and marigold—were used to add flavor and bitterness to beer. Hops won out because they made the fermentation process slower and more dependable.
But what the heck are hops?
Hops are the female flowers of a vining perennial plant called, brace yourself, a hop. The flowers are unusual—green, papery, and round to oval. They are relatives of hemp and mulberry
Germany is the world’s top hop-producing country, but the U.S. is second—primarily the Northwest. (California, Sonoma County in particular, once held that distinction, but production there declined with mechanization .)
In Independence, Ore., the Rogue Farms Micro Hopyard is a 42-acre hop farm raising five varieties of hops. The farm is owned by (and provides hops for) Rogue Brewery , an Oregon-based microbrewery with a passionate following of beer enthusiasts. The hopyard is open for tours and tastings, with hours that vary with the seasons.
Want to watch hops grow? Check out the farm’s live webcam .
Pertinent to the topic of farm stays is Rogue Farms' Hop-n-bed , a five-bedroom, two-bath historic farmhouse available for overnight stays and events. Rogue has a private beach along the adjacent Willamette River for guests (only 16 steps away, according to its literature), and a tasting room across the driveway.
Just under 300 miles to the northeast, Washington's Yakima Valley  is one of the world’s largest hop-growing regions. It’s a fitting location, then, for the only museum dedicated to the history of hops in America, the American Hop Museum , which features hop-production machines and relics from as far back as the 1800s.
Michelle Nowak is writing about farm stays for an upcoming issue of VIA.
Photography by Duncan Harris/Flickr (hops); Michelle Nowak (Chatoe Rogue)
This blog post was first published in May 2011. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.