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Every beer tells City Farmer's story of urban gardens

Randy Shore

Maria Keating, an environmental educator with the City Farmer Society, with seven different varieties of hops harvested at the Vancouver Compost Garden in Vancouver on Sept. 15, 2017. (Jason Payne/Postmedia Network)

Maria Keating, an environmental educator with the City Farmer Society, with seven different varieties of hops harvested at the Vancouver Compost Garden in Vancouver on Sept. 15, 2017. (Jason Payne/Postmedia Network)

City Farmer plans to raise a glass to celebrate 40 years of advocating for urban agriculture and food gardening, with its own city-hopped India Pale Ale.

A bumper crop of Goldings, Cascade and Willamette hops is being harvested from the ultra-funky Compost Demonstration Garden in Kitsilano in preparation for a Vancouver-style microbrew.

"City Farmer is all about telling stories," said project leader Maria Keating. "When the city compost pilot project started up we knew there would be a lot of compost, so we wanted to find something special to do with it."

Inspired by the latest wave of craft beer revolutionaries sprouting up in Vancouver, Keating opted for a hop vine demonstration project.

"People were talking a lot about hops — there is always a shortage — and the history of the crop in the Fraser Valley, so that was another story to tell," she said.

They set about building an all-urban hop farm using compost made from household green waste from Harvest Power in Richmond.

"We ended up with a mishmash of varieties because I didn't really know anything about them at the time," Keating recalled. "People are really into it, all the 20-year-olds want to pick hops."

Every harvest and the resulting brew is a unique story.

In 2014, the first hop harvest was used to brew a nut brown Pollinator Ale using honey produced on site in celebration of the Year of the Pollinator.

The following year a wind storm knocked down hundreds of trees across the city, including one that crushed the hop trellis and mashed the potato patch. The delay in harvest meant the hops were used fresh rather than dried in their Windstorm Session Ale.

Last year, City Farmer produced a Rail Ale to celebrate the opening of the Arbutus Greenway with a nod to the corridor's past as a rail ink to the Molson brewery.

"The hops for their beer went right past us at City Farm," Keating said.

The hop vines are now a living demonstration of the use of beneficial insects — including a large population of aphid-eating lady bugs — which are a specialty of "Bug Lady" Keating.

"I can show people the whole life cycle of the lady bug under nearly every leaf," she said.

rshore@postmedia.com