INDEPENDENCE -- In the 1930s and 1940s, Independence was one of the largest hop-producers in the world. With Rogue Ale's lease of hop fields and plans for a possible pub in town, the glory days may be restored.
Independence City Manager Greg Ellis said Jack Joyce, founder of Newport-based Rogue Ales, called in May to say he is opening a 275-acre hop farm at 3590 Wigrich Road. Joyce said he would like to build a tasting room and have tours of the farm for customers to learn about growing and processing hops.
The turn-of-the-century home that sits on the land will be used as a museum and training center, Joyce said.
"Rogue Ale is a very well-known entity," Ellis said. "It would be a benefit and a bonus to Independence to have (this) type of company."
Joyce also would like to put a pub in downtown, Ellis said, but nothing is official yet despite rumors of the pub moving into the old Cooper building on C and Main streets.
Ellis said Independence still celebrates its history each year with a Hop and Heritage Festival in September. When hops were thriving, after harvest the town would swell to 50,000 people who would come to party, Ellis said.
Joyce also made a stop in Dallas to talk with the county commissioners July 16 and to emphasize the fact that he wants to be an active member of the community.
"We think if we're good to our communities, they'll keep us from going broke," Joyce said. "(This opportunity) is a gateway to Polk County and what we do."
A small community seems to be an appropriate place for a company started by two college-aged fraternity brothers that describes itself as teeny, disorganized and inefficient -- despite being ranked as the 35th largest brewery in the United States and an internationally recognized brand.
Polk County Commissioner Tom Ritchey was impressed by Rogue and said the farm and pub sound like a great venture. Ritchey fondly remembered the days when Independence would celebrate hops by crowning a queen and having a parade.
Joyce said his company would be involved in the festival, and is even working on a special label design to honor Oregon's 150th anniversary next year.