Hop Contracts are a relatively unknown facet of pro-brewing that I knew a little of, but became well educated on after interviewing MadTree’s Matt Rowe. What started off as a question for Matt developed into the following blog post.
There are many reasons we all first took that first step down the path to homebrewing, a want for a hobby that would get you drunk, a desire to customize beer to your palate, or perhaps you started to save a few bucks. Regardless of your reason for starting, we are all here. In this article that I will cover ways you can save money and get more out of your homebrewing beyond just beer.
I have been impatiently dreaming of this day for over a year. I have been eagerly waiting for it for 2 months. I have been loving this day for the past 20 minutes. The following review of MadTree Galaxy High is highly biased. I love this beer. I love that it’s canned. I love that I’m drinking Galaxy High from a can at home.
There is a growing trend among craft brewers to move their IPAs away from the traditional 3-C hops (Cascade, Centennial, and Columbus) and on to new and exciting hop varieties that have only been developed in the past 10 – 20 years. I mentioned this last week in my review of Clown Shoes Galactica which predominantly features the galaxy hop. Green Flash has decided to feature the Green Bullet hop in the aptly named Green Bullet beer. I’ll let Green Flash’s blurb about this beer take it from here.
Named after a super-robust New Zealand hop, Green Bullet™ is a well-balanced Triple IPA being bottled today for the 1st time ever. Brewmaster, Chuck Silva initially released this Pacific Gem to celebrate the Green Flash 9th Anniversary in 2011, and it was an immediate hit! Now, this cult favorite will be available from coast-to-coast as a seasonal release from September through December 2013. Be on the lookout for this high-caliber addition to our arsenal in 4-packs, 22oz bottles and on draft, because you do not want to miss the release.
The Ohio State University has a research farm in Piketon, OH and I was invited to attend an informational meeting on growing hops in Ohio along with a tour of their hop yard.
There are no records of commercial hops operations in Ohio since around 1920. Back then the Ohio crops were virtually wiped out by downy mildew disease, something that is still a concern today… prohibition had to hurt a bit too.
That was nearly 100 years ago and things have hopefully changed for the better. Some may be asking why should THE Ohio State University (OSU), the Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA), and the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) care about hops?
First off they’re a very important part of beer, especially in IPAs which reign supreme among craft beer styes. Take that high demand combined with worldwide shortages in recent years and fewer folks growing less hops on the west coast, America’s current top hop spot.
OSU cares even more about hops in Ohio due to the locavore trend. For a few years now more and more folks have wanted local produce and everyone wants to know how many of their local brewers ingredients are local. This is a question I’ve thrown at every brewer I’ve interviewed, their response is along the lines of “None, there aren’t any local ingredients available, but maybe some spices here or there.”
If OSU can help Ohio farmers grow Ohio hops then Ohio brewers can give Ohio residents a more local product.
Many folks were interested in what varieties were being tried. The core line up was Cascade, Nugget, Williamette, Columbus, Sterling, and Centennial with Galena, Mt. Hood, Hallertauer tradition, and Spalter Select as additional varieties. Without any doubt Columbus was growing the tallest with the most cones, cones being the part “where the magic happens”.
I turned to twitter to see if folks had question and provided answers below were I could:
- @sudsanonymous: Are rhizomes planted at intervals to allow for more frequent harvests?
- No one is doing this yet but the researchers seemed to think it was a great idea and may try it next year.
- @L_AllenH: When I buy rhizomes some suggest planting vertically and others horizontally… what is the science behind it?
- Doesn’t seem to matter because like they say in Jurassic park life will find a way. But do plant two rhizomes per spot to make sure at least one takes.
- @BeerNFoodLover, @rjbedinghaus, and @TyrannyBrewing all asked if farmers were doing whole or pellets and where those whole hops/pellets were for sale.
- As of right now there are really only 2 people growing more then a few plants. They’ve both worked out arrangements with local brewers near them. One of those arrangements is whole hops, used in dry hoping, in exchange for Jackie O’s growlers… that’s my kind of arrangement. The other guy has a deal worked out with Yellow Springs Brewery, not sure the details there but if it involves Captain Stardust it’s a win!
- @LooseScrewBeers: Whats the biggest problem they face growing hops in Ohio? Is it bugs? Fungal diseases? Other?
- No one has seen fungal diseases or bugs yet but downy mildew is starting to set in on some plants, though they should be harvested any day now.
Going a bit further on @LooseScrewBeers question there are two pretty big impediments for Ohio farmers right now. First off they’re looking at about $10,000 per acre invested (not including land or labor) just to get the hops in the ground. Then you have to cut them down, pick them off the bines (not vines), and dry them. All three of those are very labor intensive activities that have yet to be efficiently automated…. though a machine meant for “medical” marijuana is showing some promise. After that $10,000 investment and that labor they’re looking at $2,000 yield the first year, hopefully going up to $7,000 in subsequent years. Which could put them at 3 – 5 years to pay off that initial investment… before making any profit.
I didn’t want to get overly heavy into the research that was done by OSU or the magic of hops; but
hit me up if you’re curious and I’ll send you a copy [Update: I’m surprised by the number of people asking for this material, so don’t hit me up anymore just go to Google Drive] of the material they handed out PLUS stay tuned to the blog because I plan a post on the science of the hop.
Lastly I also found out I’m not mature enough for a discussion about aged natural grass fed cattle fertilizer… which is the fanciest way I’ve ever heard anyone say cow shit.
Before even cracking open The Audacity of Hops: The History of America’s Craft Beer Revolution, just judging it by the cover, I’m psyched. I dig the play on Obama’s Audacity of Hope book (not trying to get political), turning it into Audacity of Hops. It’s also an applicable title as well because this is the story of the American craft beer movement and how American hops have pushed that movement.
The author starts with a skim through the ancient history of beer, early American beer, and prohibition in a few paragraphs. This is good for two reasons: others have covered this info extensively elsewhere and it allows him to get more in-depth with the people, places, and most importantly stories of the American craft beer movement. The Audacity of Hops goes into significant, but not overwhelming, detail about the various reckless gambles around the founding, or expansions, of many breweries as well as the contexts of the time for people and beer. The author makes this retelling enjoyable and engaging, there are plenty of facts sprinkled throughout but not page after page of yearly quantities and revenues I’ve encountered in other books.
However, the book tends to be heavy with hyperbole, especially with the early home brewers. The author makes it seem that these men, Jack McAuliffe and Fred Eckhardt, birthed a brand new discovery to the universe with herculean effort. While in reality they only did what people around the world had done for millennia, brew beer at home. Now I don’t want to diminish their efforts, they certainly broke the law of the land at the time and did something few had done in 30 years and those who had done it recently hadn’t done it well.
The book could, at a few points, do with better editing. The author has a tendency to run on about random breweries that didn’t survive beyond a year or two. Should they be mentioned? Certainly, otherwise there could appear a nonstop success with no failures. However, they don’t each need 3 or 4 pages. We also don’t need 2 paragraph biographies of every single brewer nor do we need them repeated often. I think by the end of the book I’d read a description of Fritz Maytag (owner and resuscitator of Anchor) at least 10 times.
At first I was doubtful but the structure of the book has proven itself to work well. That structure is mainly chronological but also, more importantly, geographical. We move through the years hoping across the United States and occasionally overseas. From San Francisco to New York, Juneau, Boulder, Baghdad and back. This works to tell how the craft beer story is an American one and isn’t just in California (though they can rightfully claim the birthplace).
I enjoyed reading this and think that many fans of craft beer will enjoy it as well. It’ll gives you a long list of new beers to try and a concise history of American craft brewers and breweries that I haven’t found elsewhere. Plus some fodder for arguments over contract brewing, the importance of brewery X vs brewery Y, and “How dare he not include [insert favorite local/regional brewery here]!”.
Lastly, I have a new favorite beer quote & motto for what I try to do with the blog:
“I still see people buying and swilling terrible beer. I sometimes think my job is like farting against a gale, but I just keep moving forward”
– Michael Jackson.
FULL DISCLOSURE: I reached out to the author and his publisher was kind enough to hook me up with a free copy. To our readers, and any companies interested in sending me stuff, giving me free stuff impacts the review in only 2 ways. That I WILL review it and that and I WILL write a blog post about it. Giving me free stuff does not guarantee you a favorable review or that I will tell everyone to go buy it.
In a world where most food is filled with High Fructose Corn Syrup, Erythritol, Zinc Picolinate, and brominated vegetable oil things can get confusing, scary, and mostly hard to pronounce. Luckily beer is the opposite of all that craziness. Most styles of beer rely on 4 ingredients; water, malt, hops, and yeast. I’m gonna take a look at what those are and what else might pop up in other styles.
Disclaimer: This is only meant as a brief introduction and I may have misunderstood the role of some things.