ELK MOUND — When opportunity knocked, Scott Alne answered.
Scott and his wife, Jody, were in the process of getting their hops farm started when a string of emails with instructors in the electrical power distribution program at a nearby Chippewa Valley Technical College campus helped make their job a little easier.
“It seemed a little daunting, thinking about doing all the work,” Scott said. “We got CVTC to come out with the linemen class, and within two days they had all the poles up, guide wires anchored. They did a lot of work in a short amount of time.”
“That’s why we have the type of anchors and guidewires we have. That’s what the linemen used, so we repurposed what they use in their environment.”
The pole installation was the first time many of the students had used the linemen equipment, Jody said, but it offered a great way for them to get experience.
“If you’re getting into it, finding a local technical college with a linemen’s course is a great way to get it done,” said Jerry Clark, Chippewa County UW-Extension agriculture agent.
The Alnes started Hoppertunity Gardens in memory of their son, Jesse, with Nick Cartwright, a friend of Jesse’s from high school, and his wife, Stephanie Cossette. Jesse, a first lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force, died in a motorcycle crash in 2008.
“Jesse had experience making home brew. He and Nick got started brewing when they were in high school,” Jody said. “At some of the special events the Air Force had at their bases, they would ask him to make his home brew. It wasn’t always the best, but the morning before he started his ride, he bottled up his last batch of home brew, and it probably was his best.
“We’re carrying on his legacy and his passion for making beer.”
The Alnes — who also have a daughter, Krystine — have 2 acres dedicated to their hops.
The first hops harvest at Hoppertunity Gardens went to Brewster Brothers Brewing Co. in Chippewa Falls, which made its Flyby Wet Hopped India Pale Ale in honor of Jesse with fresh hops from the farm.
“It’s interesting how you get involved with the breweries and learn a lot about what they need,” Jody said. “Our first hops sale was wet hops, and that was fun to do. It’s an interesting opportunity for brewers, growers and distributors to put together.”
Hoppertunity Gardens is coming up on the second harvest of hops this fall. Brewster Brothers has doubled its order of hops from the farm, and much of this year’s harvest of hops is going to Pearl Street Brewing in La Crosse.
“We’re pretty excited about that,” Jody said.
The Alnes also board horses on their 35-acre Elk Mound farm.
Jackson is a regional editor for The Country Today, a rural newspaper owned by Adams Publishing Group.