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Hops: A hundred year trend reversed

Hops usage (alpha acids per hectoliter)

This chart is actually one that Alex Barth, president of John I. Haas, showed at the 2015 American Hop Convention. It’s relevant right now because today the Barth-Haas Group released its annual hop report. And it confirms the projection Alex Haas made 18 months ago.

The chart tracks hop usage since 1971. One hundred years ago brewers used the equivalent of 12.6 grams of alpha acids per hectoliter (26.4 gallons or 85% of a barrel. The had fallen to 9.1 grams in 1971 and continued to drop regularly until it was just over 4 grams in 2011. It ticked up to 4.5 grams in 2011 and will reach 5.4 this year.

This doesn’t mean that beers are getting more bitter. It means that brewers are using hop differently and using more of them.

Because of heightened interest in hops much of what is in the report has already been reported. The archives are invaluable if you want to look up how much Strisselspalt the French grew 20 years ago, or if the hop called Record (which is in this year’s Sierra Nevada Oktoberfest) was ever very popular, or what spot prices were in any particular year.

This year’s report begins with a discussion of “How hops have changed the world of beer, and vice versa…”

The central task of hop research used to be “quite simple.” The breeding of new hop varieties focused on yield, alpha acid content and resistance to diseases and pests. This met most of the requirements of both the hop and brewing industry. When, after many years, a new hop variety was finally licensed, the brewing industry accepted it and brewed its beers with it – mostly with success. This went on for years – until a completely new generation of brewers grew up in the United States. More and more breweries were built and more and more people took an interest in brewing beer – not only on a small scale for their own consumption, but also on a large scale for sale to others. Suddenly, hop aroma acquired a totally new standing. The craft brewers had taken a fancy to the aroma varieties in particular. Gradually, they developed their own ideas, philosophies, techniques and innovations with regard to brewing which have meanwhile found their way into the world at large. … At the same time, there arose a growing desire for unusual hop aromas, and within a relatively short period of time new hop varieties with a wide range of flavours appeared.”

That’s why, by their count, in 2012 the number of hop varieties worldwide stood at 180; today there are 250 varieties. That doesn’t include hops been reconsidered when they grow in different regions. For instance, Gorst Valley Hops has renamed Chinook, calling it Skyrocket, because in Wisconsin the hop is less piney and resinous and smells more tropical. And in New Zealand the new name for Cascade is “Taiheke.”

Of course, the most popular varieties are driving growth.


The acreage here is measured in hectares (I know, maybe it should be called hectarage), and there are 2.47 acres to a hectare. A couple of varieties not in the chart because acreage was not reported in 2011: Mosaic 36 ha in 2012 and 728 in 2015; and El Dorado 39 in 2013 and 181 in 2015.


The Session #114: Pilsners

The SessionWhen The Session began more nine years ago — so before half of the breweries now operating in U.S. had opened — it focused on exploring styles.And it will again next week. Host Alistair Reece has asked us to write about pilsners for The Session #114.

What I want folks to do is put down their IPAs, their Belgians, their sours, their barrel aged stuff, and hunt out a few pilsners to compare and contrast, whether they be Czech, German, Belgian, American, etc, etc. Try to get examples of Czech and German in particular to see the differences. Most of all though I just want people to re-discover what I consider the pinnacle of the brewing craft, so off hunting you go.

The next Session is Aug. 5.


Starting with the last word, and returning to a favorite book



Notes from a beer-travelling man.

The craft beer revolution – meaning the global demand for more interesting well-enough made beer – has become the first strongly affirmed objection to the pointless globalisation of the food and drink business, or any other business come to that.

It is more important than it at first appears.

It represents the gradual triumph of individual aspiration over corporate convenience. It is the expression of one desire of humankind as it is, rather than as it is projected to be.”

[Via Tim Webb]


This is how Terrapin quietly sold out to Big Beer and betrayed its fans.
[Via Atlanta Magazine]
When Your Favorite Winery Is Sold To A Large Outfit, What Questions Should You Ask?
[Via Forbes]
Fill in the blanks.
[Via Beervana]
OK, we’ve got that out of the way. But seriously, it matters when it happens to you.

Bartenders in D.C. are learning how to stop sexual assault, and so far, it’s working.
It reads and looks like an advertisement, but that doesn’t make Safe Bars less important. [Via Upworthy]

Defining a ‘Classic Pub’
An abstract idea, agreed, but yes to a quality that “goes beyond mere function, and to which the drinker has a reaction deep in the soul.” Thinking about this I grabbed Ken Wells’ marvelous book, Travels with Barley, off the shelf. A search for the Perfect Beer Joint is at the center of his narrative, but it’s really about what the subtitle — “A journey through culture in American” — says. My Sunday morning started to disappear as I scanned familiar parts of the book. The only way to move on to other things was to put the book in the pile beside my reading chair in the living room. [Via Boak & Bailey’s Beer Blog]

Q&A: Is There a Beer of the Somme?
And the rest of Sunday morning disappeared when this post popped into my feed reader. But a beer from a place question … I can never resist. [Via Boak & Bailey’s Beer Blog]

On the IPA Cutting Edge…
Maybe Breakside Brewery is “doing more to push the evolution of IPAs forward” and maybe not. But, with considerable help from Ben Edmunds, Jeff Alworth pulls back the curtain to reveal the how and what behind Breakside’s Back to the Future IPA. Science has a little catching up to do when it comes to the why. [Via Beervana]


Winemakers may be able to select cork according to its phenolic content.
“A cork in a bottle will release slow amounts of compounds into a wine that will react with the wine and produce complex compounds that probably have a role in colour stabilization and reducing bitterness and other roles we don’t know.” [ViaThe Drinks Business]

Can you “train” a palate?
Thoughts about “Taste memory” and parlor tricks (among other things). [Via Steve Heimoff]



Asheville, Australia, Cape Girardeau & a free book

If you’d like to hear me talk about brewing and/or get a book or four signed in the coming months here are a few opportunities:

– Two incentives to sign up for an American Homebrewers Association (AHA) membership by midnight Sunday. 1) You may buy Great American Beer Festival tickets during the member pre-sale on Aug. 2, with one option a ticket to the members only session on Oct. 8. 2) You will receive a copy of “For the Love of Hops” (which you may bring to the members only session, where I will sign it). This is the way I understand that it works. When you sign up through a link provided to homebrew clubs (this is the St. Louis Brews link) you use the code ILOVEHOPS at checkout to get the book. You must be an AHA (or Brewers Association) member at midnight Sunday to buy GABF tickets on Aug. 2, and the deal on my book runs through July.

Asheville Homebrewers Conference, Aug. 13. I’m looking forward to hearing Mike Karnowski of Zebulon Artisan Ales talk about “murk,” Todd Boera of Fonta Flora Brewery (who contributed a recipe to “Brewing Local”), and Michael Tonsmeire, “The Mad Fermentationist.”

Australian National Homebrewing Conference, Oct. 13-15. I’m headed to Australia directly from Denver (GABF). Plenty of talks have my attention, but I’m already beguiled because they call the pauses between presentations “hot breaks.”

Midwest Regional Homebrewers Conference, Cape Girardeau, Mo., Nov. 5. This event is still coming together.


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