RICHWOODS, MO. • Les Nydegger bought 55 acres of rolling woodland west of De Soto about 15 years ago, thinking he would use the land for hunting and fishing some day. But earlier this year, after retiring from a quarter-century-long career at Anheuser-Busch, he decided he hadn’t gotten quite enough of the beer business.
So he cleared an acre of forest, stuck 20-foot-tall cedar poles in the ground and planted hops.
“We thought it would be a neat thing to do, especially for the craft brewers,” Nydegger said, standing near his fledgling hop yard, about an hour and a half southwest of St. Louis. “This is my chance to be a farmer.”
Nydegger has company. In the past several years at least three other area brewers and farmers have planted hop yards, joining a surge of new growers around the country who are trying to cultivate beer’s key flavoring ingredient.
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