It hasn’t been easy for suppliers to keep up with craft beer’s skyward trajectory. Ingredients like hops and malt specifically are reaching precarious levels of demand. This 2016 hops report from the USDA National Agriculture Statistics Service detailed how the hop industry is walking a very thin line between under and oversupply, and that puts an enormous strain on farmers, breeders, merchants and industry pros (especially when in-demand aroma hops produce smaller yields).
There are many such challenges that the hop and barley industries face — diseases, pests, inadequate research facilities, understaffing at those facilities, demand for new varieties, demand for more acreage and even chemical containments that can spoil plants, products and flavors. Hoping to solve some of those issues, America’s craft beer association, the Brewers Association (BA), spearheads some pretty impressive programs it hopes will help both the hop and barley industries succeed in the future. Just recently, the trade association posted its 2016 grant programs.
“Craft brewers have unique barley malt and hop needs, and consume an ever-increasing proportion of the supply of these ingredients to produce their beer brands,” explained Chris Swersey, supply chain specialist and competition manager at the Brewers Association. “For barley malt, priorities include keeping barley competitive to maintain grower interest, developing varieties suited for commercial production in a much broader geographic area of the U.S. to support local brewers and malting companies, and developing lower protein, lower FAN varieties that are better suited to all malt beer production.
“For hops, priorities include developing varieties with improved disease resistance and yield to add value to growers, new varieties with unique aroma and flavor contributions, and improved management strategies for crop surety. Our 2017 grant support will fund projects that will directly address these critical needs for growers and processors, and will help to ensure our members have access to high-quality ingredients in sufficient quantity. BA is particularly excited about the current focus on developing winter barley varieties for improved yield and hop industry best practice development which will address food safety, traceability and on-farm grower practices.”
Grants can make a difference
In recent years, the BA has definitely increased funding to support research and service grants for public barley and hop variety development, hop disease and hop aroma, as well as supporting affiliated national and state-level grower organizations. While proposal submissions for funding during the calendar year 2017 have already closed, submissions for 2018 calendar year funding will be accepted from March 1, 2017, to May 31, 2017.
“We’ve seen competition for grant support increase significantly over the most recent three years,” said Swersey. “For 2017 competitive grants, BA received 55 requests totaling $1.75 million, and funded 19 grants [34 percent] at ~$450,000 [28 percent]. Our technical committee includes several subcommittees focused on issues such as supply chain, sustainability, safety, quality, draught beer quality and others. Requests that address the themes of multiple subcommittees are typically more successful. Over the course of 3 years, our grant review committee has revealed several key considerations as they compare grant applications.
“Requests for funds in excess of 10 percent of total anticipated funds are not likely to succeed. Requests from individual vendors, suppliers or brewers which appear to benefit that applicant or convey commercial advantage are highly unlikely to succeed. Requests for commercial development of proprietary technology or that seek to establish proof of concept or market potential are not likely to succeed. Plant variety development requests from groups of states or regions are far more likely to succeed than requests from individual states, brewers or growers.”
Great info. Now, let’s take a look at some of the hop and barley programs the BA funded in 2016. These are some pretty interesting and important initiatives, and we give the BA some impressive props for this kind of funding. To learn more about getting these grants, click here.
All-Malt Beer — Barley Development Project
- Partner(s): Brewers Association, North Dakota State University, United States Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service, Idaho (USDA-ARS Aberdeen), Briess Malt & Ingredients Co.
- Primary goal(s): Identify and commercialize malting barley varieties better suited to all-malt brewing for cultivation in the U.S.
- Background: Craft brewers represent a 36 percent customer for U.S. malt consumption as of 2016. And yet, there are currently no malting barley varieties specifically bred for all-malt brewing in production in the U.S. Craft brewers currently use malt made from barley varieties bred for adjunct brewing, with negative stability outcomes in packaged beer.
- Additional Information: Study will continue development of test plots of spring and winter lines at Aberdeen; micro malting at North Dakota State University with Paul Schwarz group; 2016 seed increase of varieties of promise from 2015; pilot malting at Briess with varieties which were involved in the seed increase; brewery trials with participating breweries.
Responding to a New Threat to the Cascade Variety from Powdery Mildew
- Partner(s): USDA Agricultural Research Service, Ore.
- Researcher: David Gent
- Primary goal(s): Evaluate male germplasm for its reaction to multiple strains of the powdery mildew fungus. Communicate and disseminate results to plant breeding programs and industry.
- Background: Powdery mildew of hop (caused by Podosphaera macularis) is the most-costly disease to the U.S. hop industry and, by extension, brewers. The disease is managed largely by repeated application of fungicides, with susceptible cultivars receiving on average 8.3 fungicide applications per acre per year (Gent et al., 2012). Economic losses from powdery mildew and its management have been estimated at about 15 percent of total crop revenue (Mahaffee et al., 2003), in addition to unmeasured costs due to greater supply instability and reduced brewing quality.
- Additional Information: Management of powdery mildew is accomplished most efficiently with genetic host resistance. Grant funds were used to conduct a systematic evaluation of male germplasm for its reaction to widely prevalent strains of P. macularis, including strains virulent on plants possessing the resistance gene R6. This work is foundational for identifying potential sources of new resistance in existing public breeding lines and accelerating development of new varieties with broadspectrum resistance to virulent strains of the powdery mildew fungus.
Nitrate Residues in and on Hops
- Partner(s): Washington State University
- Researcher: Douglas Walsh
- Primary goal(s): Evaluate the interactions of plant nutrition with arthropod pest abundance and disease severity. Quantify nutrient carryover into cones and subsequent beers brewed.
- Background: Craft brewers use innovative methods to incorporate hops in the brewing process, including dry hopping after the boil, wet hopping with fresh hops, adding hops later in the boil, and dry hopping with whole cones or pelletized hops. Most all-malt beer brands incorporate a substantially greater quantity of hops on a per unit basis than traditional American Pilsner-type adjunct lager beers.
- Additional Information: The overall objective is to help determine optimal nitrogen fertilization rates for hop growers. This will help ensure growers produce economically sustainable yields while providing craft brewers with hops that have optimal brewing properties.
Aroma and Flavor Deciders in Cascade, Centennial, Chinook hop varieties
- Partner(s): Oregon State University
- Researcher: Thomas Shellhammer
- Primary goal(s): Identifying character impact compounds that are unique to Cascade, Centennial and Chinook varieties.
- Background: This year’s project culminated a three-year endeavor by probing how the Cascade, Centennial and Chinook hop varieties, individually and in combination, produce unique “American-type” hoppy aroma in beer.
- Additional Information: Combinations of the three hop varieties in different proportions were used for dry-hopping, and the qualitative changes in the resultant beers were evaluated using descriptive analysis with trained sensory panelists. The study will increase industry understanding of which combinations of hops drive specific types of hoppy aroma in beer.
Oregon State University Malt Lab
- Partner(s): Oregon State University
- Researcher: Pat Hayes
- Primary goal(s): Develop an effective and functional malting facility and malt analysis laboratory to support the growing craft
- Background: In 2015, the Brewers Association provided support for the development of the Oregon State University Malt Lab. Brewers Association support allowed Oregon State to leverage an additional $100,000 in funding and to develop infrastructure and capacity for malting and malt analysis.
- Additional Information: In the second year of funding the Oregon State University Malt Lab represents model public sector involvement in the grain to glass chain, supporting greater diversity in agriculture, and producing greater efficiencies, profitability, and sustainability in barley production, malting and brewing.
Malting Barley Flavor Markers for Breeding Guidance
- Partner(s): Colorado State University
- Researcher: Adam Heuberger
- Primary goal(s): This project will investigate relationships between barley grain metabolites and downstream sensory traits in malt and beer.
- Background: Investigating the relationship between barley and malt chemical composition and beer flavor quality is vitally important to craft brewers, who have expressed an interest in understanding malt flavor. Identifying barley metabolites that contribute to beer flavor is critical to develop new methods to pre-screen barley varieties for downstream sensory traits.
- Additional Information: Previous research showed that barley varieties contain distinct profiles of thousands of non-volatile small molecule metabolites such as amines/amino acids, alkaloids, flavonoids and lipids. Many such metabolites are associated with malting quality traits. However, it is still unclear whether barley metabolites (and variation in these metabolites) can influence beer flavor and overall sensory quality. The specific objectives of the work are (1) Identify volatile and non-volatile metabolites in barley grain that vary among 10 barley varieties; (2) Determine metabolites that are associated with sensory data collected by craft brewers; (3) Determine variation for metabolites associated with sensory in the AB-Global population.
Sustainable Grower Production Practices: 2-Row Barley and Nitrogen Usage
- Partner(s): University of Idaho
- Researcher: Christopher Rogers
- Primary goal(s): Identification of two-row-barley cultivars with the best fit for all-malt brewing, and development of best practices for sustainable cultivation of those varieties.
- Background: This proposal plays a key role in the evaluation, selection and development of best management practices for all-malt barley cultivars that are agronomically, economically and environmentally sustainable.
- Additional Information: This research continues the screening of winter and spring barley cultivars as well as the development of fertilizer nitrogen best management practices that maximize plant uptake, yield, and quality and minimize disease and potentially negative environmental impacts.
Hop Growing Sustainability/Best Practices for Growers
- Partner(s): Hop Growers of America
- Principal: Ann George
- Primary goal(s): Hop Growers of America embarked on a 30-month project in October 2015 to develop a Best Practices program for United States hop growers.
- Background: The dramatic increase in hopping rates and change in hopping regimes (late hop additions at low beer temperatures) has focused attention on hops as a food crop, heightening concerns over food safety practices, particularly during harvest. Ensuring that hops are grown in a sustainable and responsible manner has been identified as a priority of the craft brewing industry.
- Additional Information: In the absence of a single program addressing the specific needs of the U.S. hop industry, growers have implemented programs developed for other crops that are not a perfect fit for hops. The hop industry is currently experiencing unprecedented acreage growth and interest by individuals looking to grow hops. It is important to encourage and support these new hop growers and help ensure their production methods meets the standards of our customer base.
That’s not it. To see the rest of the grant programs the BA funded for hops and barley in 2016, click right here.