Have a hoppy time at Hop Harvest Fest in Houston

By: 
Jordan Gerard

Hop on down to Houston for a good time with hops, live music, vendors, food and family fun at Hop Harvest Fest, hosted by Sweet 16 Farm.

Held on a hops and cut-flower farm, the Hops Harvest Fest is an event where anyone can come help harvest hops by hand.

The one-day event will be held Saturday, Aug. 24, from 2 to 10 p.m. at Sweet 16 Farm, which is located at 21215 Hwy. 16.

Tickets are $20 at the gate and ages 16 and under are free with accompanying adult. Camping is included with the ticket price for those that wish to stay overnight. Campsites are primitive. 

Live music by Jaybone Bell will start at 3 p.m., followed by The Lowest Pair, The Driftless Sisters and My Grandma’s Cardigan. The headliner is Them Coulee Boys. Winona Boats and Bluegrass Festival is partnering with the fest this year to bring a bigger musical line-up, event organizer and farm owner Sarah Mann said. 

“Boats and Bluegrass really goes with the spirit of our farm, which is sustainability and community,” she said. “We can gather round an agricultural event, meet neighbors, other farmers and engage with [our] community.”

Hop Harvest Fest began three years ago in 2017 (2019 being its third season) as a fun excuse to invite people out to the farm for music and craft beer and to help harvest the hops grown by Mann. 

Hops are time-consuming plants because they have to be harvested by hand. The 20-foot vines are pulled down, carried into the barn and laid out around a table where the hop buds are picked off by hand.

“It’s a very unique experience because farming is such a big part of the Houston County community but a lot of it is just work, and we’re all doing it solo for the most part,” she said. 

It’s a good way to celebrate the end of farming season, Mann added. 

After the hops are harvested, they’ll be sold to a local brewery for a special type of seasonal beer, wet hops seasonal beer. 

In order to create this special brew, the hops must be put into the brew vats within 24 hours of being harvested.

In addition to harvesting hops, the first Driftless Grown Vendor Fair will be held, featuring about 10 vendors offering several different booths.

Each booth will have an interactive activity for kids, such as painting with watercolors where the dye is made from plants and planting peony seeds to start.

“I want to bring to the community a really unique agriculturally focused event that kind of displays the diversity and creativity and all that the Driftless Region has to offer,” Mann said. 

If there’s fun for the kids, there’s fun for the adults. The Woodshed Pizza food truck will be at the festival, offering their authentic wood fired pizza.

Island City Brewing and Dangerous Man Brewing will also be on site with craft beers to sample and purchase.

“I want to invite families to participate, to spend a weekend in this beautiful region,” she said.

This is a cash-only event. There is also limited space for large campers, but there is an area reserved for families that prefer a quieter atmosphere.

Mann said the event is still looking for volunteers to help out. Volunteers can do two-hour shifts during the event or leading up to the event and receive free entry. Visit the website at www.sweet16farm.com for more details.