Pursuit of hoppiness
Honesdale’s Hop Barons founders utilize success to open a community kitchen
HONESDALE, PA — If you’re wearing socks, oughtta fling them off now, lest they be knocked into the wind by this next sentence.
Hops. aren’t. just. for beer.
“Everyone we’ve talked to about using it outside of beer has been like, ‘Oh my God, I never would’ve thought of that,’” said Chris Tuleya Monday afternoon, seated at a table in the Hop Barons’ new utility kitchen in Honesdale.
Right now Hop Barons, a hop farm founded by Tuleya and Jason Nacinovich in 2015, grows only enough at its one-acre farm by White Oak Lake to supply hops for one beer at Wallenpaupack Brewing Company (and that beer is award winning). Its owners have mostly made use of the plant for other purposes.
Tuleya wanted to open a brewery for years. He and Nacinovich—a Long Island native who has lived in Wayne County for 11 years—even considered buying the building that now houses Kim’s Pub & Grub. But the brewing business is an expensive one to start. Following the advice of a friend to think outside the bottle, Tuleya successfully grew a hop plant in his yard in New Jersey, where he lives. Eventually, he decided that might be a more cost-effective venture. He asked his friend Jason if he knew any farmers who would let them use some land to grow a few plants.
Four years later, Hop Barons sells salts, BBQ rubs, dips, hot sauce and has even supplied its product for lip balm. The pair—who met while at college in Scranton—supply numerous local restaurants with their rubs, including Kim’s, the KC Pepper Bar & Grill, Wandering Hen Cafe in Scranton and the Mustard Seed Cafe in Waymart. Calkin’s Creamery in Milanville produces a hop-infused cheese and a partnership with Black & Brass Coffee Roasting Company resulted in a hoppy coffee rub. You can also find Hop Barons products at farmers’ markets.
“The guys are great and the rub is fantastic... it’s a very diversified product,” said Kim McGinnis, the owner of Kim’s Pub & Grub. She uses the spicy badass BBQ rub on Kim’s kickin’ chicken sandwhich, in chili, on the wings, meatloaf and even in stews and meat at home.
Some info on hops
Hops are a cone-shaped flower that grows from the Homulus lupulus plant, which is in the hemp family—so, yes, they are a relative of cannabis. Production of the crop in the U.S. has grown in the last three years, according to the National Hop Report—presumably as a result of the burgeoning popularity of craft breweries—though it’s mostly grown in Oregon, Idaho and Washington states. Only about 4% of hop production happens outside those states.
Hops are bitter in flavor and are a natural preservative for beer. It isn’t the plant itself but its derivative oil that brings out the flavor in India pale ales (IPAs) and helps mitigate the sweetness of maltier brown ales. Outside of beer, the full extent of what hops can do for us hasn’t been fully explored, but they are used in essential oils and can make you a little sleepy. Some sources suggest washing your pillowcase in hops for a better night’s rest.
What’s a “wet hop”? The wet-hopped farmhouse ale brewed by Wallenpaupack Brewing Company is award winning. It just means that rather than drying out (called “kilning”) before use, the hops have gone straight from bine to production and add an enlivened aroma to the beer.
Nacinovich and Tuleya have been making all of their rubs, salts and sauces in Kim’s kitchen. They decided it was time to invest in one of their own.
“We made, literally, two cases of a small batch of hot sauce and within days it sold out,” Tuleya said. “Making it again in another person’s kitchen was hard. So, we haven’t made it again.”
So Tuleya and Nacinovich leased a space in the warehouse on Sixth and River streets in Honesdale, the same building that houses the event space 6th & River, The Bodhi Tree Art School and Studio and Pivot Physical Therapy. A ground floor room in the building now features the early makings of a commercial kitchen on one half, and enough room on the other side for several tables.
The Hop Barons’ kitchen is a separate enterprise from the farm, and will be available in June for local caterers, cooks and regular folk to use. Tuleya and Nacinovich want the space to be educational—available for a class on how to properly butcher deer, for example, or a bagel-making workshop.
Their goal is to help promote other local businesses.
The two agree that Honesdale is an ideal place for the kitchen. There’s a need for a communal cooking space, but there’s also a collaborative environment that supports local startups, they said. Well-established businesses willing to work with smaller operations have been crucial for the survival of Hop Barons. Thanks to the partnership with Calkin’s Creamery, Nacinovich said, “We have friends in Philadelphia that [say], ‘I just bought your cheese at a farmer’s market—[that’s] cool.”
The kitchen is an extension of that idea.
“Our goal is to have anyone be able to rent it,” Tuleya said, “even if you just want to make, like, Thanksgiving dinner.”