Lindsay and Mike from Ostlie Acres play 20 Questions
Lindsay and Mike Ostlie brought their love of craft to North Dakota when they moved back after having lived in Northern Colorado. The couple purchased a farm and tried a few hops for fun. Their operation has grown to include more hop bines, even though it’s still a side project for them.
Lindsay and Mike gamely agreed to play 20 Questions when I reached out to see if they had hops that I could feature in a Club shipment:
Hop: What did you do before growing hops?
Ostlie: We both grew up in North Dakota, Lindsay on a cattle ranch and Mike on a grain farm. We purchased our 36-acre farmstead in 2011. Before that, Lindsay worked in clothing design. She still sometimes takes on freelance sewing projects during the winter months, chases kids around, and runs the farm business operations. Mike still works at his “day job” as a Research Agronomist at the NDSU Carrington Research Extension Center and spends his evenings and weekends working on our farm.
Hop: What got you interested in growing hops?
Ostlie: Prior to moving back to North Dakota in 2011, we lived in Northern Colorado. We enjoyed the craft brewing scene when we lived there and when we started farming the craft beer industry was growing by leaps and bounds in North Dakota. Mike planted some hops just to see if they would grow, and they did! The idea grew from there.
Hop: How long have you been growing hops? Or, how old are your bines?
Ostlie: Most of our hopyard was planted five years ago.
Hop: What varieties are you growing? Which ones are doing well for you?
Ostlie: Over half of our hopyard is Cascade-which seems to do reliably well. We also have Glacier and Horizon. Glacier usually does ok but Horizon struggles. We have also tried Centennial and Chinook.
Hop: Do you homebrew? If so, what do you like to brew?
Ostlie: Growing hops is a lot of hard work-we don’t homebrew but we like to kick back and enjoy the beers other people make with our hops!
Hop: How big is your hop yard?
Ostlie: ½ acre
Hop: Do you grow anything else?
Ostlie: Yes, we do agritourism and have a juneberry orchard where we do a U-pick in the spring and we grow hardneck garlic. In the past year, we have also been growing herbal teas.
Hop: What was your biggest challenge getting started?
Ostlie: Financing the project was challenging and not having any comparable operations in the area.
Hop: Any advice for homebrewers in your area looking to start growing hops?
Ostlie: Start small, and stick with a few plants.
Hop: How has your reception from the professional brewing community in your area been?
Ostlie: Mixed, it seems like everyone was supportive and excited when we started but now that we are up and running interest has waned a bit. A few breweries have been good customers and very supportive but others don’t understand that we just can’t compete with the contracted, commoditized hops they are used to buying. Those are grown in areas with an established industry on a large scale-we are having to learn & build everything from the ground up and we started with a small acreage to “test the waters” and see if growing hops would be a sound investment.
Hop: What do you see as your biggest challenge going forward?
Ostlie: The hops market is not great right now so financial sustainability is a challenge. Also, our farm has a lot of severe weather to the point that we expect to have at least some weather related damage each season and having a year with no crop damage is an exception. Finding people to help with harvest is also challenging.
Hop: What pests or diseases are you having problems with?
Ostlie: We experienced record breaking moisture and flooding in 2019, so downy mildew was a problem.
Hop: Is there a state or college hops research program in your area? If so, are you involved at all?
Ostlie: There are a few researchers at NDSU doing some research on hops. I have volunteered with Hops Harvest at the Williston Research Extension Center and attended their field day. The State Ag Dept. has also brought in some speakers about hops.
Hop: Are you planning to expand your hop yard? If so, with new varieties or with more of the varieties that are doing well?
Ostlie: We are not planning to expand our hop yard at this time.
Hop: Is there a community of other growers in your area that you work with? If so, how?
Ostlie: We have only been growing hops for 5 years but in that time, we’ve seen a lot of growers come and go. There have also been many people who come talk to us who are thinking about getting into growing hops. There are a few growers now that have put in larger acreages and we email or talk with them throughout the season. We have had other growers come use our harvester and we have done custom hops pelleting for other growers. There have been some efforts to organize a hops grower industry type group but with so few people involved and so much turnover it hasn’t gotten a whole lot of traction. Overall, I think the word on the street has been that growing hops isn’t very profitable in our area.
Hop: Have you had a chance to interact with the homebrew community at all? If so, what has the reception been like?
Ostlie: Occasionally homebrewers come to our farm for tours and events. The reception is always positive. We package some of our hops in “homebrew” sized packages.
Note: The Ostlie Glacier and Cascade were featured in the August 2020 subscription packs.