The Pacific Northwest is the mecca of hop breeding. Oregon, Washington and Idaho grow 97 percent of the hops in the United States. For more than 100 years, Oregon State University has taken a big role in helping cultivate the hop industries of the Pacific Northwest. OSU scientists began experimenting with hops on campus in 1893. Its Dr. Alfred Haunold in particular is the godfather of American breeds like Cascade, Willamette, Sterling, Liberty, Mt. Hood and Santiam.
Indie Hops is an Oregon-based hop merchant that’s a big supporter of OSU and its hop sciences. Since 2010, Indie Hops has donated more than a million dollars through the Agricultural Research Foundation, a corporate affiliate of Oregon State University. In that time, OSU and Indie Hops have been working to commercialize certain breeds in the Aroma Hops Breeding Program — the first of which (called Strata) is finally finding its way into the craft beer market.
Indie Hop’s Owners Roger Worthington and Jim Solberg had their eyes on developing a unique “open pollinated Perle” variety. From an excellent article on The Daily Barometer (Oregon State’s award-winning student-run newspaper):
“I selected the experimental genotype 9-1-331 in 2011,” Townsend said via email. “And after extensive testing for agronomic traits and brewing potential at Corvallis, and two Willamette valley commercial hop farms, X331 (as we informally called it) was named Strata and targeted for release. Strata also appears in packaged beers brewed by Fort George, Base Camp, Sierra Nevada and Odell, to name only a few.”
According to Worthington, it is about a 10-to-12-year process from the day a male and female are crossed to the day there is something that is commercially valuable to brewers. Worthington also mentioned that Oregon is an ideal location for aroma hops to grow. In fact, Oregon ranks second in the United States in hops production valued at $65 million in 2016, according to an OSU extension webpage.
Patents are being filed, and Indie Hops has contracted some 70 acres to grow Strata for next season. Indie Hops was working with Coleman and Goschie farms last time we checked. Worthington also owns Worthy Brewing Co. in Bend, Ore., which hopes to can a Strata IPA in 12-ounce cans next year if the harvest is a success. Back to the article:
According to Townsend, the Strata hop was chosen for its sensory complexity and outstanding agronomic performance. Both the Strata hop and IPA are described as having various tropical fruit notes, citrus notes and dank notes similar to that of cannabis.
“I would love to introduce the hop to as many students as possible who are of drinking age and get them inspired about the importance of dreaming,” Worthington said. “We started with a dream, Jim and I, and then one day we had a hop that we helped invent with Oregon State and it took about eight years to get there, but this dream is coming true.”