Stan Hieronymus Hop Queries – December 2021 December 2021

Each month respected beer writer Stan Hieronymus produces Hop Queries, a must-read summary of what is happening in the hop world, and has kindly offered to let us publish it for Australian industry readers. If you would like to subscribe directly, you can here.

Welcome to Vol. 5, No. 8. Happy holidays. I love this picture because it is a reminder of how important the dormant period is in the life cycle of a hop plant (annual above ground, perennial below). That it was taken near Hersbruck in Franconia is a bonus. While hops are nestled in for the winter, there’s plenty going on with the business of hops, starting with a bunch of numbers.

Record production

Friday the United States Department of Agriculture reported record hop production of 116 million pounds in Idaho, Oregon and Washington. That’s 12 million pounds more than 2020, when weather and smoke damage drug down yield, and 4 million more than the previous record of 112 million pounds harvested in 2019. A few takeaways:

Citra. I struggle to find new comparisons to illustrate the popularity of Citra. Although production grew a modest 8% to 18.4 million pounds, that’s still more hops across all varieties that any country in the world other than Germany grows. The Citra harvest this year was about 5 million more pounds than all the “aroma” hops farmers in the Northwest produced 20 years ago. (And, fun fact, 63% of those aroma hops were Willamette.)

Top 5. Citra 18.4 million pounds, Columbus-Tomahawk-Zeus (otherwise known as CTZ) 15.3 million, Mosaic 13.6 million, Simcoe 6.4 million, Pahto 5.2 million.

Yield. Citra yielded 1,535 pounds per acre across 11,981 acres. CTZ yielded 2,752 pounds per acre on 5,569 acres. CTZ production is 83% of Citra, but on less than half the acres.

It looks like a typo: Idaho 7 yield jumped from 1,736 pounds per acre in 2020 in Washington to 3,197 in 2021. She has been a consistent the last three years in Idaho, yielding 2,562, 2,442 and 2,837 pounds per acre.

With a bullet. Mosaic 13.6 million pounds (up 18%), El Dorado 3.2 million (33%), Idaho 7 2.9 million (46%), Sabro 2.9 million (32%), Strata 1.5 million (33%), and Cashmere 1.2 million (36%).

Cascade/Centennial. Cascade production increased 11% in 2021, to 6.8 million pounds. That’s half of 2017 (13.9 million pounds, about the same at 2021 Mosaic). Centennial fell another 25%, to 3.6 million pounds (40% of her high of almost 9 million pounds in 2017).

The bottom line. Washington State University updated its Pacific Northwest Hop Cost of Production Study in 2020, estimating the annual cost of producing mature standard trellis hops under drip irrigation in the PNW at $13,588 per acre (including variable and fixed costs, depreciation, etc.) Gross return per acre in 2021 was $10,869, marginally higher than $10,563 in 2020, but not as high as 2017 or 2019.

Average price per pound to farmers was down in 2021 to $5.72 from $5.97 in 2020.

Hoplist updated

Julian Healey has published a second edition of Hoplist. I wrote a few paragraphs about it pre-Hop Queries. It has grown from a list of 265 varieties to 339, although it doesn’t include Lórien (see next section). In short, the updated edition includes 70 new varieties, more than 2,000 new and updated pieces of data, and new fields of data with key acids, essential oil, phenols and keotones (in some cases). The book costs $9.99 and I ordered a (digital) copy minutes after the email arrived announcing its availability.

Indie Hops releases lager hop

Lórien is the second variety, after Strata, to come out of the Indie Hops funded breeding program. This is how Indie promotes it: “While the current trend of dry hopping lager beer with high alpha, high oil IPA hops does bring some popular flavors to the table, the hops tend to hijack the beer and result in a light IPA. That’s not a bad thing!… but with a low alpha, ‘clean’ hop like Lórien, the beloved ‘beer’ flavor from luscious pilsner malt and a crisp lager fermentation is there to enjoy, along with a complimentary finish of fruity/floral hop flavors that craft beer enthusiasts have been steadily leaning toward.”

Talking about Lórien before she was named, Indie Hops co-founder Jim Solberg said her attributes are “more in keeping with new craft beer consumers. Fewer consumers are into the grassy/spiciness of those (classic) hops.” In other words, with aromas and flavors of “citrus zest, fresh melon, sweet hay and wildflowers, all capped by a cinnamon spice” she’s not quite like Saaz, or even Sterling. But she is similar in at least one way.

Back in Vol. 2, No. 2, I wrote about research in Germany that suggested higher amounts “auxiliary bitterness compounds” serve to reduce the lingering character of bitterness and make a positive contribution to the quality and “harmony” of beer bitterness. These encompass all the bitter compounds in hop resins which are transferred into beer and which are not iso-alpha acids. They are not easily measured, but the high beta, low alpha rule of thumb works quite well in identifying varieties rich in them. Saaz, Mittelfrüh, and Strisselspalt have beta/alpha ratios of between 1.3 to1 and 2.4 to1 and higher levels of ABC. In contrast, New World hops currently popular for late dry hopping (such as Citra, Galaxy and so on) have beta/alpha ratios between 1 to 2.3 to 1 to 3.6 and lower levels of ABC.

With between 4 and 5.5% alpha acids and 7 to 9% beta acids, Lórien has a beta/acid ratio equivalent to Old World varieties.

$4.8 million for hop research

The USDA has awarded Washington State University a four-year, $4,853,908 grant for hop research. The funds, part of the Specialty Crop Research Initiative grant program, will allow WSU, along with Oregon State University, to conduct research on enhancing supply chain sustainability and global competitiveness as well as developing disease and pest resistant hops that can be grown more sustainably.

YCH completes warehouse in Belgium

Yakima Chief Hops has completed construction of a 6,600 square meter (about 71,000 square feet) cold storage warehouse in Mont Saint Guibert, Belgium. It has cold storage to house 8,800 pallets of hops, office space, a taproom and a visitor center where customers may sample beers made with YCH products. The facility also includes a homebrew hop pelleting line capable of producing smaller size packages for home and nano brewers.

“Establishing a foundation here in Europe speaks to the commitment YCH has to delivering the highest quality hops directly to its global brewing customers,” said Denis Gayte, managing director for YCH Europe.

Download Hopfen magazine

Hopfen, the German hop growers magazine that each year does a bit of looking back and looking forward, is available to download. You will find more detail about Tango, the hop named after a dance and reported on here in April. I recommend starting with the article about lupulin enrichment and also the one about fertigation, which combines fertilization and irrigation. A relatively small percentage of German hop farms employ irrigation, so it would be significant if more farms – recognizing the possible devastating impact of climate change – install irrigation systems.

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