On Deck

Podcasts like TV, film and music has its candy and good for you choices. I say that not disparagingly but to let you know that if you want to know more about the agricultural side of beer life, then I have the podcast for you from the Countryman Malt Group.

It’s called the Brew Deck and it is where you can turn for deeper dives into malt, hops and other beer topics. When you tire of the hot takes and beer snobbery, give this podcast a listen.

Dystopian Brew

New Belgium is providing us with a thought experiment in beer form with Torched Earth.

If the glut of books and movies set in a future that is barren and hard scrabble, the Colorado brewery has made a beer to match it. It’s not good—the beer is made with water that has been tainted with smoke (probably the least of our water worries), with dandelion weeds and drought-resistant millet and buckwheat grains as the main ingredients.

New Belgium is releasing this beer knowing full well that it is going to cause a reaction, most likely of yuck. But that is why we SHOULD drink it. Maybe if we don’t want to end up with that as beer, we might work harder at preserving our planet.

Block Grant

The #independent beer community is more than just the people making beer it is also the farmers that grow the raw ingredients which is why it is so important that the Brewers Association is granting, well, grants as part of their Research and Service Grants Program. The program is “designed to further the development of a healthy and sustainable raw materials supply chain.”

17 grants with an attached $432,658 were awarded this year with 12 going to malt and 5 to hops. I selected 2 that I think will be important in the years to come….

Breeding for Barley Contributions to Beer Flavor
· Partner: Oregon State University
· Principal: Pat Hayes

Hop-Derived Dextrin-Reducing Enzymes from Dry-Hopping
· Partner: Oregon State University
· Researcher: Thomas Shellhammer

The 2017 Hop Report

Governmental crop reports are generally not my jam but the hop report for 2017 is fascinating to pore over.

Here are my bullet points / important data from the PDF….

1. Idaho crept past Oregon for the # 2 slot in production with a two percent lead. Neither state combined can touch Washington with 75% of the production.

2. Overall hop production is up 20%

3. Washington produced more Cascade than any other hop, Idaho had Zeus followed by Cascade and Oregon had Nugget followed by Cascade.

4. Experimental hops are growing in yield in Washington but slowing down in Idaho from this year to last and not even on the list for Oregon

5. Azacca and Palisade were big last year but I don’t see other newcomers on the list to keep an eye on.

Book Review – Hoptopia

The backstory on hops coming from Oregon is on partial display in Hoptopia by Peter Kopp traces hops from their start in Oregon up to the craft beer boom.

As happens with many beer books, the story just grinds to a halt once you hit Y2K. There is a bit of an epilogue but it seems that a general wrap up with a nod towards the future could be beefed up.

I wouldn’t even worry if the preceding chapters were not so interesting. You learn how the hop plant made it to Oregon. Spoiler – It wasn’t growing here before. You learn of the hop barons. There are tidbits of how Oregon hops made their way into Guinness beers and then, to me, most fascinating is the long and slow slog to start hop breeding and how one person, really set the wheels in motion for developing new varietals.

You will want to look up the name Dr. Alfred Haunold. Then thank him the next time you are drinking an IPA.

You get not only agriculture but business, people, labor force news a whole cornucopia of not just the hop cone but all the surrounding factors that go into growing and harvesting.

I was dog-earing pages left and right as I furiously flipped through this book on my Kindle. I just wish it had been longer.

Hop Forecast

Hoppy, with a chance of bitterness. All kidding aside since you should not trust any LA based weather prediction, here is the news from the hop bines….
The latest report from the Hop Growers of America points to a sunnier future for this IPA crazed drinking nation.

Hop inventories in the U.S. have increased by 10 percent in the last 12 months compared to last year. That doesn’t mean your local brewer will be able to brew up an exotic SMaSH beer because only a portion of that 10% will go to what is called the Spot Market (the not already pre-ordered part of the market). The rest will fulfill contracts that are purchased years in advance.

This year will mark the fourth year in a row that the acres of hop fields have grown here in the U.S.. In addition, it is the third year internationally with Germany expected to increase its acreage of hops by 10%.

Part of me sorta hoped that the supply would stay tighter as it would force brewers into different styles or be more creative with their personal hop supply. That is the same part of me that wishes that George Lucas always had to work on a shoestring budget for his Star Wars and not rely on the old green screen so much.

This will certainly help logistically for many breweries who had to really plan out their brewing schedules and will hopefully trickle down to the new brewers who don’t have the access to hops that the established brewers do.