Hops Harvesters made right in Roxbury
By Cheryl Petersen
The basic ingredients of beer are water, malt, hops, and yeast. “As a hobby, I brew beer at home,” said Steve Steenland of Steenland Manufacturing. “A couple of years ago, I visited Ommegang Brewery in Cooperstown and toured an old hops farm.” That visit may have planted the seed for a mechanical hops-harvesting machine that Steenland and his father are now manufacturing in their Roxbury machine shop.
Hops (humulus lupulus) are a flowering vine whose flowers are used as a preservative and for their essential oils that add flavor and aroma to balance the sweetness of the malt. Usually dried before use, the bitter flavor of the hop is extracted during the boil in the beer-making process. The aroma is provided by aroma hops whose essential oils provide the aroma. Each variety of hops has its own distinct flavor/aroma nuance.
“After visiting that hops farm, I realized there was a need for an efficient, more compact, harvester,” said Steenland.
Fast forward to present time and Steenland Manufacturing is now producing the model HH 1000 hops harvester. The basic ingredients of the HH1000 are entrepreneurship, ingenuity, family input, and scrap metal.
Steenland Manufacturing is a family business.
“I graduated from St. Bonaventure College in 2008 with a degree in political science,” said Steenland, “and returned home to work with my father who has a welding/fabrication shop. I’ve always loved to invent and create. When in high school, I joined the Science Olympiad Team.”
He continued, “Research showed that hops growers would need to purchase a $45,000 commercial hops harvester from Germany, which is unrealistic in the small-brewery business,” said Steenland. “So, we developed a practical unit, built prototypes and improved on the design until we came up with the HH1000, selling at a cost of $11,800.”
Steenland and his father, Pete, are filling a niche market in the agricultural machinery industry.
The portable, affordable machine is three-feet wide, five-feet tall and nine-feet long. It can be transported in the back of a pickup truck or on a trailer. It weighs less than 500 pounds. “It operates electrically with a one-horsepower 110-volt motor,” said Steenland. “The machine both strips and sorts the hops cones from the leaves with the use of rubber-stripping fingers so as not to bruise the flowers.”
The maintenance for the machine includes grease bearing and chains.
“It can be placed in the barn or a shed,” explained Steenland. “The model HH1000 is built on casters and can be wheeled around easily. During the off season, it can be covered and stored outside.”
After the vines are harvested and bundled into bines (four vines per bine), the machine will process two bines per minute. During testing, the HH1000 was used to harvest old wild hop vines in the Catskill Region.
“The old vines were sprawled out and perfect for testing,” said Steenland. “The belting horizontal feed worked perfectly.”
Custom orders are being taken and HH1000s are delivered within three weeks.