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U of M students hope to fill growing local hop demand

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Three former and current University of Minnesota students are hopping on the Minnesota craft brewing train.

U of M alumnus Eric Sannerud, whose family owns a farm in Ham Lake, U of M horticulture senior Ben Boo and Mighty Axe CFO Brian Krohn teamed up to create Mighty Axe Hops – local, organic and sustainable hops, which should help fill a growing demand from Minnesota's craft brewing industry, the Minnesota Daily reports.

“Duh, there’s a market,” Sannerud told the University's newspaper. “People want craft breweries, and they’re going to want local hops.”

“There’s absolutely no question for the demand [for hops] being there,” Niko Tonks, head brewer for Fair State Brewing Cooperative, told the Minnesota Daily. “It’s next to impossible for brewers to get hops that are grown in Minnesota.”

Mighty Axe's Cascade hops are getting popular – local breweries including Fulton, Bad Weather and Burning Brothers all want to use Mighty Axe Hops, the Growler says. The company has high hopes for the future. This year, they hope to produce 200 pounds of whole cone Cascade hopes, according to the Growler. And by 2016, Mighty Axe hopes to produce 6,000 pounds total, the Minnesota Daily says.

In a trial run last year, Mighty Axe grew 25 hops plants, which yielded 7 ounces of hops, the Minnesota Daily said. Mighty Axe donated the hops to Fair State Brewing Cooperative, which brewed them into six barrels of India Pale Ale – the beer sold out in just four hours, according to the Minnesota Daily.

The hop growers do have their challenges. Planting hops in Minnesota isn't as easy as planting, say, corn. Hops are typically grown in places like Oregon and Washington – Minnesota's harsh winters can be challenging, but they've found disease-resistant Cascade hops have been perfect and exactly what the customers want, according to the Growler.

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