INTERVIEW

TRANSCRIPT

WCR: Alright Tom and welcome to the program.

Tom: Thank you for having me.

WCR: And we just went on a tour of your research center and I’ve got to say, you’ve got quite the operation going on.

Tom: It’s, it has really matured into something pretty neat. It’s pretty awesome what’s going on out there right now. I’m really pleased with it.

WCR: And you’re the first commercial production facility for hops in the state of Montana.

Tom: That’s correct.

WCR: Awesome, so before we really get started, let’s just dive into…what exactly, what are hops?

Tom: Hops are the flower of a female hop plant. Hops are…there’s male plants and female plants and so all we care about from a hop production perspective are the female plants. We don’t want any breeding; we don’t want any pollination going on out there because if they were to be pollinated, if the cones were to be pollinated, you’d have about a 40% to 60% reduction in the secret sauce, the lupulin that’s in there, the resin that’s in there. Plus you’d have production of seeds, which takes energy away from the cone itself and then when you get seeds in the organic matter in the hops, you get docked for that typically from a commercial perspective. There is one; we found one male plant out there, that was part of our original stock that we planted a couple years ago.  And that’s coming out today.

WCR: So why do we put hops in beer? What was the origin of that?

Tom: Well if you go back, the origin of beer, the Egyptians thousands of years ago, that was probably the first recorded production, or brewing of a beverage.  Prior to 736 AD they used gruit, which is an herb, to flavor or season beer. The problem with gruit, and they used it for hundreds of years, the problem was it had no preservative and around 736 AD was the first recorded use of hops in beer and I believe it was some Abbus at a monastery in the Hallertau region in Germany. And what hops provide, besides flavoring to the beer is a natural antibiotic or preservative. So you’ve got, among the chemical components that are in the lupulin, the yellow lupulin resin that you’ll find in the hop cone or flower are alpha acids, very prized by brewers obviously, and beta acids. Most hops have more alpha acids, a higher alpha acid number percentage wise than beta acids but beta acids are really, really important because that’s the natural anti-microbial, the natural anti-biotic, the natural preservative. And if you think about them from a historical perspective, if you look back in history to the late 1800s when the British were colonizing India and they needed to make those beers, those ales, those British Ales, survive around the voyage around the Cape Horn of Africa, to get to the troops in India, they stuffed all kinds of extra hops into the beer and that was able to give them the ability to survive the voyage. It was a preservative. And that style of beer that was brewed as an India Pale Ale, which is a historic British variety, has become the modern US style of IPA, India Pale Ale. But that was how IPAs were started, it wasn’t anything that really was really started in this century, it’s an old British style.

WCR: What are the different styles, or types of hops? There’s aromatic type hops and what are the other?  

Tom: They’re typically characterized as either bittering hops or aromatic hops and then you’ve got dual purpose also. It’s interesting to look at the acreage not only in the US but globally because hops really is a global industry, and what goes on here in the US, certainly not on the small scale of what we’ve got going in Montana, but if you were to look at say Washington and Oregon and Idaho where, the legacy commercial hop growing states, very much of that is impacted globally. So in the US, the amount of bittering acreage, bittering hop acreage, has really declined in the last 5 to 10 years being replaced by aromatic hops. What has gone on in the US in the hop industry and the growth of hops is really illustrated well by this very series that you’re doing with all the craft breweries. I mean, 20 years ago there were no craft breweries in the Flathead Valley or northwest Montana. I think it was 20 years ago that Great Northern opened their doors in Whitefish, they celebrated their 20th anniversary. And that’s, this whole notion of craft brewing as a market segment has taken off, really accelerated in the last 5 years and if it weren’t for craft brewing, there wouldn’t be any kind of an opportunity here, there wouldn’t be any kind in terms of that. There’s plenty of acres…here, in Germany, other parts of the country that could satisfy the needs and had it not been for the emergence of the craft brewing industry segment, chances are you’d still be seeing a lot of the bittering hops instead of the aromatic hops. The craft brewers really are focused on the aromas.

WCR: Do hops have any other type of use, other than putting it in beer?

Tom: Absolutely they do. For centuries in Germany for instance, they’ve put fresh dried hops, whole dried hops into pills and as a natural sleep aid. For instance, you can go down here, I know a place in Kalispell that sells hop pillows as natural sleep aids. Same thing you can get in teas. I’ve seen them in salves; I’ve seen them in lip balms. There are about 400 compounds in hops, just like in certain medical circles, compounds in cannabis plans are being used in oncology research and so on and so forth, there are compounds in hops that are still being observed and looked at and characterized for different applications. We’ve got one variety out there for instance called Tea-Maker that we were looking at earlier where the alpha acids and the beta acids are reversed. It has almost no alpha acids but very high beta acids and we’re looking at that and other varieties for use in nutraceutical markets. We’re looking long term, from a diversification strategy, what can we do long term, and I’m talking about over a 10 to 20 year time frame,  to really diversify our business model so that we can be prepared for any upswing or downswing for any market.

WCR: So being the first commercial hop ranch in Montana. When did you start Glacier Hops Ranch and what gave you the idea?

Tom: Well, I’m not a home brewer; I have no aspirations of being a brewer. I, about 3 years ago, had a conversation with Pat McGlynn, Dr. Pat McGlynn, she is our MSU extension agent here in Flathead County and that 30 acre parcel that we looked out there with all the flagging, it was a pasture. We used to pasture cattle and horses and yaks out there and it was really ugly, it was full of weeds, it wasn’t even making good cow hay and I knew it needed to be redone.  And I asked Pat about a certain forage crop that had been recommended to me and she didn’t think too highly of it and we talked about it for a bit and she kinda cocked her head and said, “have you ever considered growing hops, I hear they should do well in our climate” and I looked at her like she had 3 heads of course. No, I had never considered growing hops so she suggested I do some research, talk with some local brewers, and see if I could create a market for it. My background is as a marketing research, business development guy so like any good marketing guy, I did nothing with it for the first couple weeks and I happened to bump into Joe Byers, from Tamarack brewing, the head brewer, at an event and all I did is I recanted the conversation to him and he just went, got real excited with the prospect of locally grown hops. So that gave me a little bit of incentive then so I picked up the phone and called Marcus Duffey who I’d known for several years and just had exactly, shared the same conversation with Marcus and he kinda chuckled and he said, well you know Tom, we can’t keep up with the demand for fresh hops for our Frog Hop Fresh Hop beer, fresh hop ale and it’s to the point that, he said, we’ve even considered putting in some acres ourselves just to satisfy the demand.   He said, of course we’d support you. So armed with a couple of positive indicators, I started doing a lot of research, internet based. I found out that you, there’s a lot of information on the internet and even more of what’s not on the internet, or what is on the internet is what’s not on the internet and this is a case where certainly there’s information available but you know, the scale at which I was looking at there’s very little really useful information and because it’s such an interesting plant, unusual plant, from a propagation perspective, cultivation perspective, you pretty much have, and I advocate this to anybody trying to do this at home, to start small. We’ve learned an awful lot, skinned our knees pretty badly and learned from our mistakes. It’s a pretty particular plant and glad we went through that process as we jumped off the cliff so to speak.

WCR: So when you got started not a lot was known about hops and I think you’re kinda touching on that a little bit, about how hops would grow in Montana.  But you have a research center here specifically focused the impacts of Montana "terroir" is the word on the hop. Can you explain what “terroir” is and what your research center found?

Tom: Well, let’s start with a number of varieties and what our objectives were. We were trying to find out what varieties would grow best in Montana and what we were trying to find out is what would yield the best, what would be the best in, from a chemistry perspective that the brewers want and would the brewers want what would grow the best in Montana. So terroir is a French term and it’s more applicable in the wine industry and it’s the impact of microclimate and soils on what it looks like for instance say a Bordeaux grape or Bordeaux wine can only be grown in that area and it’s very specific. You can grow the same variety of grapes in another area but they won’t produce the same result. It’s like Oregon why pinot noir grapes do so well, their pinot noirs are getting so well-known because their climate and there, that volcanic alluvial soil they’ve got there in the Willamette Valley does a really, really nice job for those particular types of grapes. So, would a cascade or a centennial or a nugget or a tettnang or whatever, would it be the same here in Montana than the same variety that’s grown in the Yakama Valley or in the Willamette Valley or west of Boise.  And what we found out from an impact perspective because last year, the first year we didn’t have much of a harvest, we had a very small harvest. Last year we got enough where we could actually send these off for chemistry analysis. So we sent them to the lab and what we got back, is really where, that’s where the rubber met the road here because what we found out, is that, like cascades for instance, our cascades are indeed true to type and if you measure the alpha acids, the beta acids, all the primary oils and so on and so forth, not only was it true to type in the range, we kind of skewed towards the top of the range in some of the desirable characteristics or better. So when I shared that information with the Montana Brewers Association for instance last October, that’s what really opened up the door.  

WCR: So we generally have a good climate to grow hops is what you’re saying?

Tom: Yeah we do. And it isn’t just the climate. It’s the latitude. Latitude is a really critical component of growing them. They typically will only grow between 35 and 55 degrees latitude, north or south. Because the southern hemisphere is known for some rather unique varieties. They have to go through a dormancy period, you know frost and/or some kind of dormancy, 6 weeks typically for the plants to be able to produce. There are always exceptions to the rule. I know of some small hop growers down near San Diego. I know of some that are trying it in North Carolina. I know of one guy in Austin Texas who’s trying it and he doesn’t have the length of daylight down there like we do up here. So in South Africa, just like in Austin Texas, he’s trying to replicate what they’re doing in South Africa, is putting grow lights to help them, to see what happens. So here, we, what’s really interesting here with our latitude, is that we’re actually in the Flathead Valley at the same latitude as the Hallertau region in Bavaria which I referenced earlier as having been growing, cultivating hops longer than anywhere else in the world, since 736 AD or something like that. So the impacts of our length of daylight here in the Flathead are probably as significant as anything. Our length of daylight, we’ll actually get 45 minutes of daylight more a day here than in the Yakima Valley and probably about an hour a day, I just came back from the Willamette Valley, was able to visit some hop farms down there and we are right about at the same stage of development, for instance the cones that you saw that were developing out there, some of them were in burr stage and just starting to develop the cones but they haven’t seen 35 degrees there in 2 years. So, in fact some of their varieties were suffering because of a lack of dormancy, a lack of a frost. Others were doing incredibly robust. But they seem to be doing really, really well here for lots of good reasons here in Montana.  

WCR: So I understand it takes about three years or I guess you were explaining it actually takes 4, to get a usable hop harvest. Can you explain the process building a farm or the life of a plant?

Tom: Yeah. So most, I guess traditionally the expected propagation method is you start with rhizomes which are a piece of root with some nodes, root nodes that come off of that. People may be more familiar with irises and flowers like that that propagate through rhizomes. So you take that, stick it in the ground and hope that they come up and that first year you might get a nominal harvest, depending on how you have cultivated it. When we started, we put all rhizomes in and about 80% of them emerged and after that first year, I found how, I found a source for crowns. So, an established plant has a crown at the center and sends rhizomes out from it so the second spring, what I did is I got, I started with 17 varieties the first year. The second year we got 23 new varieties but we started with crowns that were propagated, cloned off of mother plants and so again there was no pollination, nothing grown from seed or anything like that. In our commercial world, seeds, pollination is a bad combination whereas if they’re in the breeding world, where they’re trying different crosses to come up with new plants, yes they definitely want male plants to go along with that. But the, so we had, we were up to 40 plants, we grew it from there. We’re at, right now about 46 or 47 varieties but planting, putting the plants in is just the tip of the iceberg. I get people all the time say I want to grow hops and as you saw, the trellis is a huge expense. Our trellises are commercial size at 18 feet high. There’s anchors at every outside perimeter post, 5/16 inch aircraft cable, trolley lines that we string everything up to. Drip irrigation and a source of water because these plants need to be irrigated, they need to be…They need 3 gallons, a mature plant needs 3 gallons of water a day and lots and lots of fertilizer. So they’re nutrient hogs, they’re voracious, thirsty plants but putting all of that in and getting established, you’ve got the plants, you’ve got the trellis, you’ve got the irrigation system, and then you’ve gotta have also, the ability to mechanically…this is not a big, this research center is not a big facility at all at 800 plants, 8/10 of an acre. This is very difficult to care for, to cultivate manually. If we didn’t have mechanized equipment to do this, some of which I showed you, the specialty cultivation equipment, it would be about a full time job for a couple of people. When you’re getting more than a quarter acre, more than a couple hundred plants, you better be mechanized.

WCR: And how many varieties did you say that you had in that research center?

Tom: 46 or 47. Because we took several out last year we keep adding new ones in as we have access to new varieties. We just got 3 new varieties that we got from the Clean Plant Center Northwest that we’re propagating from virus free, certified virus free starts so I think that’s 47 altogether.

WCR: You have some Montana-grown, Artisan-Crafted Hops, what are those?

Tom: Well, so that really opens the door to a whole other question because we talked up to this point about cultivation and cultivation, hops grow well in Montana well that’s great but then what do you do with them because there’s a very, very limited demand for fresh hops. Fresh hops, once they’re picked and harvested, by the way it’ll take you 45 minutes to an hour to pick one bind out there and so, and off of each plant you’ll notice that I’ve got 2 twines coming off each one and so that’s about 1600 twines with binds wrapped around them so figure 45 minutes to an hour for each one…I don’t know about you, but I don’t have enough free beer, free music, free food, friends that can do that and so it’s probably 30-40% of the effort grows into growing a quality plant. Most of the effort comes after harvest…at harvest/after so our process is that we’ll cut the plants down at harvest time out in the field, and bring them in and some of the harvest that we’ll run through our Bavarian harvester that we call Hildegard, some of those will go into fresh hop ales. The rest of will be dried and when they’re dried, some will be sent off for testing, chemistry testing, and so some will then be compressed as whole leaf, dried and then vacuum sealed as whole leaf hop. Some breweries, they like that. There’s 2 or 3 in Montana that will use those after they’ve been dried. Most of the rest need pelletized. Probably 98% plus of all the hops used in the US are pelletized hops so what happens is after they’re baled, typically in a big baler is a big compression chamber that will produce a bale about the size of a bale of straw, except it weighs 130 to 200 pounds and that bale then is frozen and once, until harvest is over and then at harvest then they’re sent off and they start pelletizing. Once you start pelletizing, there’s a heat…there are a couple of danger points or failure points. One is as they’re drying and the other is pelletizing because of the friction going through. So, and then after pelletizing they’re packaged and once they’re packaged then they can be used. But back to the question about artisan crafted. So there are 4 oils, 4 primary oils of all these compounds in hop lupulin resin there’s 4 that the, that are most prevalent. There is humulene, caryophyllene, farnesene, and myrcene and this is where the secret sauce happens.  If you look at the chemistry of those 4 oils, those aromatics, I’ve had it explained to me like, think of pine tar, motor oil, or WD-40. Some you just can’t get rid of, you can’t do anything…WD-40, poof, it’s gone. So if you think of humulene, which is, if you think of Budweiser, that’s your typical bitter aromatic, that’s heavy humulene. That was prized by the big corporate brewers, has been prized, for decades, centuries. And humulene has an evaporation point, or a flash point of 320 degrees so you can’t kill it, no big deal. Caryophyllene, more of a spicy aromatic, it’s got a flash point of about 240 degrees. Same thing, no worries.  But you get down to farnesene, think of fresh cut grass…that chlorophyllic aroma. And some varieties of hops have almost no farnesene, not a big deal. The most I think I’ve seen is like 11% so it’s not real prevalent but that’s got a flash point of 104 degrees. The magic for craft brewers is in myrcene. Myrcene has got that aromatic, that flowery, rose, geranium, perfume…that is real prevalent in let’s say a fresh hop ale where it doesn’t even exist in a commercial beer because it’s been boiled off. So that’s got a flash point of 89 degrees so now being armed with that knowledge of what those flash points are, and you look at what the legacy producers have to do to get their crop dried, historically they dried at between 140 and 160 degrees Fahrenheit. Now, they all know that heat is the enemy but there’s a balance struck between what do their big corporate customers want in big volumes versus drying hundreds of acres at harvest time, getting it dried, lowest heat. So probably 60% of the growers, the big growers in Yakima they now dry at about 125 degrees. It takes them longer, it’s a better quality hop, more, it’s a better end quality because you get more aromatics in it without question. But wouldn’t it be nice to be able to dry at a lower temperature. Now there are some, in other parts of the country that are advocating a no heat, just lots of air volume, blow lots of air at it and that way you keep all of the oils. The problem with that, sounds good in theory, the problem with that is if you just put air and no heat whatsoever, you get insects that crawl up, love to crawl up in those things and you get mold spores, naturally occurring mold spores. So what I’ve heard  is some small brewers in Wisconsin that’ve gotten these and they’ve taken them out of the freezer in their vacuum packs, opened them up, used them in a batch, come back the next day. If you’ve ever been in a brewing room in a small brewery, they’re very warm; they’re very humid because of all the boils and all the other things. They come back the next day, maybe the pack is black with mold or maybe there’s bugs crawling all over the place.  So what we’ve worked out a formula with a grower/producer from Michigan who grew up in Yakima to kind of find that middle swing of the pendulum where he starts the heat off and it’s warm enough to kill the mold spores and warm enough to get the bugs to fly off and then backs the heat off and just kind of goes between that. Now, if you think about it doing like that, it takes a lot longer. It’ll take probably double the amount of time to dry that compared to if you were using 125, 140, or 150 degrees or whatever, you’re looking at, instead of 5 to 9 hours at the 125 to 160 degrees, we’re probably looking at 12 to 15 hours so there’s a higher cost associated with that. We have to have, our capacity, our drying capacity per acre has to be double if you think about it like that, takes longer. The end result is what we call artisan crafted. It’s a lower heat, takes longer, yeah it’s more expensive to do that, but we think, and the samples that we’ve gotten of this process and given those to craft brewers around the state, they’re going, yeah, wow there is a difference, we want more of that.

WCR: So on your tour, you kinda gave me a look at the expansion that you’re doing. It’s quite a bit bigger than what you have on the research center side. Can you tell us a little bit about your expansion and the capacity that it’s gonna have?

Tom: We have, we’re putting in 27 acres here our self and the first thing that we had to do before we could absolutely ascertain that we could put that in is we had to get water, make sure that we could irrigate it so earlier this summer we punched a well down and we’ve got a very, very robust well. We hit a gusher down there estimated at about, estimated about 110 gallons a minute. We’ve got enough water to drip irrigate probably double the amount of acres so we can be very efficient with it. We’ll be putting in there 3 of the most popular varieties among craft brewers. Mostly cascade, but also centennial and Chinook and then we’ll be adding in 5 or 6 other varieties. One of those neo mexicanus, native to Mexico varieties amalia that I showed you that when you open it up and stick it in your nose it smells like you cut a grapefruit in half. Ultra, we’ve had demand for that and that’s a replacement for a Czechoslovakian saaz noble variety. We’ve got a couple varieties, I showed you copper from Michigan, a couple proprietary varieties and sorachi ace, a Japanese variety which has got a very lemony aspect to it and actually I had one craft brewer over in Oregon just tell me that when he smells it, it’s pina colada, it’s the only hop that to him smells like coconut and pineapple combined.  

WCR: I’m not sure I’ve tried that, anything with sorachi ace in it. I’ve had a couple other brewers mention that though. Are you doing any citra?

Tom: No, we cannot grow citra here.

WCR: Oh, really?

Tom: And it’s not because we can’t grow it here…citra, simcoe, Amarillo, mosaic, galaxy, there’s a number of propriety, patented hops that have been developed by select botanicals and other growers that are, we’re unable to get access to because they’re controlled by the growers that have developed those. And the process by which one develops a new variety probably is a 10 year, half a million to a million and a half dollar investment to do that and until we can prove longevity and quality to these growers, same thing in Michigan or anywhere else that would love to grow citra and those other varieties, until we can prove that, they’re going to keep it in a controlled environment and not let it out of the Yakima Valley and so we can’t grow that.

WCR: So when is this expansion gonna be ready and when are people going to be able to buy hops from you from that expansion?

Tom: From the expansion, we’ll be, we’re already taking contracts for the 2016 harvest. So what we did is we planned ahead on this thing and we, we’ve got 23,400 second year crowns that are being propagated in a greenhouse facility in Michigan for us right now of those 8 different varieties and they will show up here sometime next month, sometime in August and we’ll put them in the ground, get water on them and all that but those are second year crowns in other words those were propagated actually last year in 2014, went through a year of dormancy in the winter there. They’re looking real good and healthy and so on and so forth, continue to be pruned back.  We’ll plop those into the ground this, for what I call a fall planting, late August, early September, and then they’ll go into dormancy and when they wake up next spring of 2016, they’re going to kinda sorta think that they’re 3rd year plants and so talking to other growers that have, from the Midwest, that have tried to do a fall planting of crowns, next year we might expect a 40 to 60% crop in really their first harvest year as opposed to something significantly smaller and then by the following year they’ll be mature. So by doing this fall planting with second year crowns we’ll be cutting about a full year off the maturation cycle.

WCR: So who are you trying to sell to, who is your market? Do you have a large, are only going to take large orders, is there a minimum order for the brewers out there?

Tom: Our target market is not really home brewers. Our target market are craft brewers. Our primary market is, and always will be Montana craft brewers. We obviously have a preference with our, and a soft spot for our Flathead Valley craft brewers. The support we got from those guys has been awesome but long term, we have the ability of expanding beyond the acreage we’re putting in right now. I’ve got 2 other satellite growers who will be growing, we’re helping them to get established, we’ll be looking for more…then with satellite growers we can help them from a cultivation and protocol standpoint in what, how to manage and then go beyond that so that we can process for them and be able to supply more than what Montana craft brewers will be able to consume.

WCR: So your hops are going to be in this year’s Frog Hop Wet Hopped Ale…do you know when they’re gonna start brewing that, when Joe over at Great Northern?

Tom: Yeah, well they’ll be in that and then they’ll also be in Tamarack’s fresh hop ales as well.

WCR: Ok, I did not know that.

Tom:  Yeah and actually, I’ve had, because the crop this year looks so much more fantastic than last year, so we’ll have a significant yield. I’ll probably be able to take care of, I think I’ve got probably around 15 craft brewers around the state that have requested any, they all know that they’re in line, and it depends on what the yield is, but now that we can see the burr stage developing and some of the early cones developing and what you and I saw out there looks very, very healthy, very promising for this year’s harvest. It’s all about, it’s farming, it depends what the yield is right? And so that, he won’t be able to get that into the pot until harvest, so I’m going to say probably about the second week of September is when we’ll be harvesting and then everybody will be able to get access to however much they’re going to be using and I want to say that Frog Hop will be tapped usually around Oktoberfest if my recollection, around the Great Northwest Oktoberfest hosted by the Whitefish Chamber of Commerce.  

WCR: So Montanans are all about keeping it local and, is there gonna be a branding associated with Glacier Hop Ranch so people know that there’s local ingredients, local hops in that beer?

Tom: Yeah, we’re a big proponent of promoting local, naturally, local ingredients but we can’t do that without our partners, without the craft brewers. Fortunately, they feel very, very strongly about sourcing local ingredients to the extent that they can. Prior to this, and other than using fresh hop ale, fresh hops that were grown in somebody’s backyard, somebody’s grandma’s house or whatever it is because they’re a great ornamental plant, getting Montana grown hops that are commercially available in dried, pelletized form didn’t exist even as an option. Now you contrast that with malting barley, you know, the golden triangle over in central Montana where last year, 630,000 acres of malting barley was planted and exported across the country and across the world because it’s some of the best malting barley. And then you combine that Montana grown ingredient, you combine that with the exceptional clean water we’ve got here in the northwest corner of the state and you’ve got the makings of some very, very pristine and really good ingredients to make great beer.

WCR: You talked about your satellite locations, is there anyone else looking to follow your example in building commercial size hop gardens in Montana that you know of?

Tom: Oh yeah, so there’s the farm or the hop yard, the cultivation part, we’ve got Randy Scott south of Whitefish, who’s, we’re working with him right now to put in 4 acres that we’ll help him with and he’s been out here several times. He was out here, he and one of his sons was out here stringing twine, learning the fine art of stringing twine up there and he’s taking it very seriously. We’ve got another grower up in Eureka who’s looking at putting in 15 acres right now. We’ve, boy over the course of the last couple years I betcha I’ve talked with dozens of people who have expressed interest but most of them get to the point of saying, oh, it’s gonna cost this to do that, or oh, it’s going to be this kind of a labor commitment or dollar commitment? It’s a very labor intensive and capital intensive crop and it is more like the pig in a bacon and eggs breakfast where it’s a commitment rather than the chicken where the egg is just a contribution…you have to be really be committed to it.  

WCR: So what is your favorite beer locally? And this might be a sensitive subject.

Tom: Not sensitive at all. I have lots of beers that I like at all the local brewers, and I would say this, because there are so many that I do like, and I’m kinda particular in my tastes. I know what I like and I definitely know what I don’t like, that there isn’t a craft brewer that I’ve been to in the Flathead Valley that I don’t like more than one of their brews. So, I’m just gonna leave it at that and say that we’ve got some exceptionally talented head brewers here in the Flathead Valley. It’s astounding actually if you really think about the concentration…

WCR: We really do.

Tom: And the quality that these guys, and how good they are at their craft. It’s one of the reasons why I have no aspirations of being a brewer myself; I just wanna give them a top-notch quality ingredient so they can do their stuff better so I can enjoy their work and they can enjoy mine.  

WCR: And it sounds like you’ve really have thought it out about the needs of the brewers and what they are wanting, to come up with the Montana artisan crafted hops.

Tom: Yeah, that’s really, it’s really driven by what they want. You know, as a marketing guy over the last 40 years I guess almost, 35 years professionally, I’ve looked at what the market needs are of any particular business model and really, what I’m doing is really making sure I’m answering their needs and they’re the ones who are driving what direction that I’m going so I’m just trying to listen carefully to them and be responsive to them.

WCR: Is there anything else that you wanna say about hops or Glacier Hops Ranch?

Tom: You know, our success is really driven by the success of Montana craft brewers and I would just close that it’s really, really important to support your local brewer.

WCR: Alright Tom, thanks for coming on the program.  

Tom: Hey, thank you for having me, it was wonderful.