Do you smell that? The fresh soil. The warm summer air ripe with hop growing potential. That’s right! Hop growing season is underway in the Yakima Valley, as the above Associated Press news report reminds us. It won’t be long before you get your hands on your yearly hop haul, wet-hopping your way to boosted bottom lines. It’s a good time to look back at the hopping pile of agricultural knowledge housed here at Craft Brewing Business. Click here to check out our hop-focused feature story archive. Or choose your own CBB adventure by checking out some of the top hop advice from the following stories:
Hip hops: Craft beer’s impact on a growing industry
Creating a solid contract is key for any craft brewery. In fact, with no minimum quantity for a hop contract, Hopunion LLC goes as far as encouraging all breweries to contract their basic hop needs at least 12 years out.
“More than 90 percent of all breweries are contracted, some for as little as 88 lbs. In addition to ensuring supply for future needs, contracts act as an essential communication tool between hop growers and craft brewers,” Meyer said. “Our growers base acreage expansions on projected hop needs, as indicated through future contracts. Expansion is extremely expensive for hop farmers and, therefore, essential to understand. For this reason, we encourage hop contracts to help facilitate better communication, from farm to kettle.”
“I cannot emphasize enough the importance of hop contracts,” McGree echoed. “We only have to look back at 2007-2008 to see a time when brewers did not get hops because they didn’t have contracts. BSG encourages brewers to contract 100 percent in the current year, then maybe 80 percent for the following year, 60 percent for two years out, etc. As the brewer enters a new crop/brewing year, he or she simply needs to top up. This strategy can protect the hops required for flagship brands and provide flexibility for new varieties and new beers. The actual percentages are not important. Each brewer needs to set figures based on his or her own comfort levels.”
Five questions about English hops with Stocks Farm
British hops are definitely different. They’re unique, and they’re unique because of where we grow them. Our climate is a maritime climate, which means we have warm, but not hot summers and cool, but not cold winters. It means an even precipitation throughout the year, although we had a lot of rain this winter. What we have is a dull maritime climate. New Zealand has a maritime climate. Tasmania has a maritime climate, but they have far less precipitation and they have far less cloud cover. So what that delivers in a British hop is a lower myrcene level, and I can send you the data on this, but English hop varieties that are grown in the U.K. and then compared to the U.S. and New Zealand varieties have a significant difference in the myrcene level.
Looking for a new hop? Try one of these often overlooked varieties
Melody Meyer, marketing manager with Hopunion LLC: “With more than 100 commercial varieties to choose from, the options for hop combinations and additions are virtually endless. We continue to encourage brewers to try something new or maybe even something old. Some of our most overlooked, yet increasingly popular varieties are the retro hops — Bullion, Comet, Eroica, Olympic, etc. In the 1980s, production of these hops ceased due to super alpha hops with better storage stability hitting the scene. Now that aroma is back in demand, these hops are being revisited. They contain high levels of alpha acids (often 7 to 13 percent), but also display unique aroma characteristics including zesty blackcurrant, fruit and ‘wild American’ flavors. What once was out of style, may just be the next big thing.”