Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Madison County Hop Tour was great

I love learning about history; I also enjoy good food and drink.
So Sunday was quite a treat.
Along with my beautiful wife, Linda, and 29 other local people, I spent Sunday on Madison County Historical Society’s Hop Heritage Tour. It was hosted by Dot Willsey and Carl Stearns, a preservation architect who’s studied Madison County’s hop houses and draft kilns. Both are interesting, knowledgeable and care a lot about preserving local history.
It was a full day traipsing all over southern Madison County. It began at 9 a.m. and we finished at 7 p.m.
I’m not going to go into great detail; suffice it to say the hop industry played a major role in the history of Madison County. And while much of it has slipped away, much still remains if you know where to look and what to look for.
I’m including some photos.
The group visits the Marshall Oast House on Valley Mills Road in the Town of Stockbridge. This English-style round stone kiln was built in 1867 and used until hop framing became unprofitable in 1911. Ron and Holly Marshall keep the structure in good repair.

Carl Stearns points out the ways stone was laid for the Marshall Oast House hop kiln.
Carl Stearns points out a feature in the store room of the Marshall Oast House.

The lath-and-plaster conical ceiling of the Marshall Oast House hop kiln.

The slotted dry room floor of the Marshall Oast House hop kiln. A stove in the room below would provide heat and the hop cones would be spread out a foot deep on the floor, which would be covered with fabric.

Brewer Matt Walen explains the process he uses to make beer at Good Nature Brewing in Hamilton. Walen makes a variety of beers and ales using "98 percent" Madison County hops.

Tourists visit Madison County's newest hop yard at Mosher Farms on Fargo Road In Bouckville.
Larry Fisher demonstrates the hop picker he built at Foothill Hops on Bear Path Road in Munnsville.

Kate Fisher talks about growing hops at Foothill Hops on Bear Path Road in Munnsville.
However there are no photos of what was certainly the tastiest part --  the wonderful six-course dinner at Morrisville State College’s Copper Turret restaurant.
Chef Kerry Beadle has reason to be proud. I’ll bet my favorite TV chef, Gordon Ramsay, would give it high marks.
Indeed, you couldn’t buy a meal that good at any price. And here’s why.
1. As part of the college, the chefs are teaching the students to do things the right way (people only start cutting corners when they get out in the real world).
2. Unlike a normal restaurant service, there were just six items on the menu, each prepared to be consumed at a designated time.
3. They used all local ingredients, even making their own pastrami and mustard from scratch.
Here was the menu:
Course 1: House-made pastrami with pumpernickel crostini and roasted fennel accompanied with pilsner-sage mustard.
Course 2: Crispy JD farms roasted pork belly served with pale ale cornichons gastrique.
Course 3: Goat-cheese-filled raviolis finished with a hop infused pesto.
Course 4: Stout mole beef short rib served on a sweet potato cake with crispy plantains.
Course 5: Crabmeat tossed with local sweet creamed corn, heirloom tomatoes and cheddar cheese served on beer flat bread.
Course 6: Hop ice cream garnished with mint leaves.
These weren’t just little samples. Each was a full plate of food accompanied with three-quarters of a glass of a paired beer.
The food kept the beer from having its full intoxicating effect (I hope).
And it’s only fair to mention, there was another meal, a picnic lunch catered by the Poolville Country Store; it was excellent.
Linda and I will definitely return to the Poolville Country Store and to The Copper Turret for dinner.

Learn more about the Madison County Hop Heritage Trail (complete with a map) at: www.madisontourism.com
Learn more about Madison County Historical Society at: www.mchs1900.org
Foothill Hops: www.foothillhops.com
Morrisville State's Copper Turret: http://bit.ly/Sy1dYh
Good Nature Brewing: www.goodnaturebrewing.com
The Poolville Country Store: www.poolvillecountrystore.com
Read Dispatch coverage of Hop Fest:


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