MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — It’s harvest time for a certain Minnesota crop. You may have never seen it up close, but chances are you’ve enjoyed its product on a Friday night.

Hop fields are popping up around the state. The crop is a staple in beer.

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While most hops are grown in the pacific northwest, Minnesota has an ideal climate for certain varieties.

John Brach of Stillwater, Minn., is in season two of growing a backyard hop yard.

“I want to be able to go in a brewery and drink a beer made with my hops,” he said.

Turns out, he’s not alone.

The second-season farmer started the Minnesota Hop Growers Association. In a year, membership has grown from 35 to 125 members.

“I expect we are going to be doubling acreage every year for the next number of years,” Brach said.

The work is hard. Hours are long, and weeding is year-round.

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“If you were to get into it, I’d say, don’t quit your day job,” Brach said.

His hops have landed a few miles away, in Stillwater’s Lift Bridge Brewing Company. The brewmaster there, Matt Hall, said Brach’s hops make up about 2 percent of the hops used in Lift Bridge’s brewing.

And the freshness of local hops goes a long way.

“We want the hops as quick as we can get ’em, from the minute that they’re picked to the time they go into the brew, any time in between the freshness starts to fall off,” Hall said.

Brach calls it a partnership.

“The hop growing industry in Minnesota would not exist if it were not for the craft brewing industry,” he said.

Still, Brach says he barely makes minimum wage.

“I’d say it is more a labor of love,” he said.

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In a few weeks, there is a local festival to celebrate the fresh hop harvest. To learn more about the Fresh Hop Fest, click here.

Susan-Elizabeth Littlefield