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Author Archive | Stan Hieronymus

Goldilocks and hop acres – what is just right?

New trellis going in at Perrault Farms in the Yakima Valley
The USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service last week released its forecast for acres of hops strung for harvest in the American Northwest. Lots of numbers and plenty of fun comparisons that illustrate how much has changed in five years or ten. The number of acres under wire is up, as expected, but maybe not as much as growers, literally from around the world, feared.

The USDA/NASS forecast is only for the states of Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, because until just a few years ago farmers in the rest of the country did not grow enough hops to bother tallying. That’s changed. Totaling up what’s going on elsewhere has been a challenge for Hop Growers of America, simply because there are so many small hop operations (often an acre or less, on an existing farm or literally in a large backyard). But if estimates are correct, farmers outside the Northwest will tend to about 7% of American hop acreage this year.

I’ve droned on here enough about how hard it is for the global hop market to find equilibrium. (And here and here at Beer Advocate.) Based upon inventory available after the 2016 harvest and projected beer production in 2017 it appears farmers could meet demand without planting any additional acre of hops in 2017.

So what does it mean that Northwest farmers planted about 3,300 additional acres in 2017 and growers elsewhere at least 1,000 more? That Citra will suddenly be easier to get and cheaper? Likely “no” on either count. That the next time you read a story about hop shortages inhibiting the growth of a particular brewery you should be skeptical? You bet. That there will be deals to be made for Cascade? Appears so. That farmers counting on higher prices will crash and burn? That’s the real concern. Because if they go out of business, or rip out hops to plant hazelnuts, then a few years down the road brewers will be facing a hop shortage. Yep, that whole equilibrium thing.

“You have to ask yourself, ‘Do I have the right acreage and the right varieties?'” Patrick Smith of Loftus Farms said in April at the Craft Brewers Conference. Vendors from Germany, the Czech Republic, New Zealand, Australia, England, and France all made it clear at CBC that what happens in the United States affects them as well — at home and in the states. This all provides an interesting backdrop to the upcoming International Brewers Symposium on Hop Flavor and Aroma in Beer (early registration ends tomorrow). I’ll be there in information accumulation mode and likely summarize some of what I learn in my Hop Queries newsletter (sign up at the bottom, if you haven’t already).

Meanwhile, to the numbers.

Northwest acreage grew from 50,857 to 54,135. Most of the growth is in Idaho, which boosted acreage from 5,648 to 7,169.

Top 5 varieties 2017
Cascade 7157 acres
Centennial 5534
Citra 5284
Simcoe 4498
Zeus* 3539

Same 5 varieties 2012
Cascade 3226
Centennial 1736
Citra 538
Simcoe 940
CTZ* ~5676

*Columbus, Tomahawk and Zeus are genetically identical and often sold as CTZ, but they grown under three different names. In 2017, production of Columbus and Tomahawk shrunk enough they are now simply listed with “other” (so CTZ is understated). The 2012 figure is a estimate because at the time Idaho did not publish figures for individual varieties.

Top 5 varieties 2007*
CTZ 8079
Willamette 6858
Galena 3030
Nugget 2768
Cascade 1303**

* Totals are for Washington only and Oregon because Idaho did not publish figure for individual varieties.
** Oregon did not provide a total for Cascade, which was combined with “other” and likely less than 70 acres.
Note: Washington farmers listed Centennial and Simcoe under “other” in 2007. They reported 253 acres of Centennial in 2008 and 129 of Simcoe.

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We need more adjectives for smells & other things you may not know

MONDAY BEER AND WINE LINKS, MUSING, 06.12.17

And the themes this week are . . .

AROMA AND FLAVOR

Talking About Talking About Taste And Smell With Linguist Ilja Croijmans.
“The Jahai, a hunter-gatherer community in Thailand, have about 12 words for smells that can be compared to our words for colors. Those words are short, abstract, used very often, and can be applied to many different smells. For example, ‘the smell of bat droppings, smoke, ginger root, and petroleum are all described with the word cnes.’ Those are missing in Western cultures. [Via Sprunge]

Vaping Hops With Lagunitas.
The lessons learned here (which is what you’ll care about) are new, but the idea of collecting hop vapor it not. In 1788 in England, William Kerr patented a device that used a pipe to collect vapor leaving the kettle, then cooled the vapor before brewers separated the hop oil and water. They returned the oil to the boiling wort. [Via October]

Rocky three.
They may have been past their prime. “I think I can see the gap where the bright and banging citrus hops are meant to go, but they’re gone.” [Via The Beer Nut]

Continue Reading →

The Session #125: SMaSH beer

The Session
Host Mark Linder has announced the top for the 125th gathering of The Session will be simple and singular: SMaSH beers. For those of you who may not not know the term, SMaSH is code for single malt, single hop. I always though they should be call SHSAM, because a) I am inclined to put hops first, b) I might not be a great speller, and c) sounds like magic to me.

Mark offers plenty of options. Even though I’ll be in South Africa July 7, I plan to partcipate, so you should as well.

The announcement also gives me an opportunity to suggest you sign up for Hop Queries, my free monthly hop-focused newsletter. It will ship shortly after Homebrew Con, because I’ll be in both hop talking and hop information collecting mode in Minneapolis later this week.

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Outlaw beer and other random thoughts

One silly thought to get out of the way, then a few links related to “What did AB InBev buy most recently and what does it mean?” so Monday links can be focus on other matters.

I think Dogfish Head Craft Brewery founder gets credit for coming up with the term “indie craft beer,” an obvious play on “indie music.” But watching this made me think we could use more categories, starting with “outlaw beer.”

#RateGate

Does anybody know who should get credit for coming up with the hashtag?

A craft beer backlash is brewing against RateBeer following AB InBev investment. [Via SFFATE]

AB InBev Buys Stakes in Craft Beer Sites, Provoking a Backlash. [Via Advertising Age]

RATEBEER and InBev. [Via Make Mine a Half; h/T @BoakandBailey]
and Why i Love RateBeer. [More from Make Mine a Half]

This from the first article: “We’ve created an API through which other brewers, industry watchers, journalists and others can view the same ratings information that ZX Ventures does,” (Joe) Tucker told SFGATE. And there’s more details in Rate Beer Weekly.

So what is ZX Ventures buying if even us lowly journalists can access the information we want? According to Rate Beer Weekly, “ZX gains access to insights around consumer trends, a better understanding of the beer consumer and beer markets around the world, which enables them to keep a finger on the pulse. They believe RateBeer is the tool to help beer drinkers best navigate the sometimes overwhelming beer market, better informing them of all the beer selections so they can make the best choice for their tastes.” I’m still confused.

Anyway, I’ve heard stories like Craig tells (last two links) dozens of times. He writes, “It’s been a part of my Life for Over 10 Years and despite recent developments i hope it can continue to bring me many more years of joy.”

Rate Beer has provided the landscape/architecture and like-minded people have created communities (plural). It does not appear that ZX Ventures will be getting the loyalty of those various communities. Obviously, that would be more valuable than the data, no matter how Big.

Before Oberon was Oberon; a Larry Bell story

You might have overlooked this bit of news yesterday from Molson Coors: “Molson Coors and Heineken announced today that MillerCoors later this year will start distributing, marketing and selling the Mexican import Sol in the United States.”

Shrug, be excited whatever. For me this provdes an excuse to tell a Larry Bell story. And Larry Bell stories are the best kind of beer stories. It comes from 2009 and appears in Brewing with Wheat.

About five years after Bell began brewing a wheat beer called Solsun he discovered the cloudy summer seasonal had taken on a life beyond the glass. The sororities at Western Michigan, also in Kalamazoo, used the beer’s logo on 600 T-shirts for fall rush.

“I realized I better get some trademark protection,” Bell said. When he filed the papers Mexican brewing company Cerveceria Cuauhtemoc Moctezuma, which brewed a beer called El Sol (the Sun), opposed the application. Since Moctezuma had been around since 1890 Bell’s lawyer suggested he could spend a million dollars fighting for the name and still lose. The good news was Moctezuma would let Bell keep the distinctive logo.

He picked Oberon as the new name in 1996 because, in part, it also has six letters and the label was easy to change. “Oberon was sort of goofy, had some connotations,” Bell said. “If you look at the Latin root it means they wander or go astray. That seemed appropriate.”

Additionally, when Bell was a sixth grader in Park Forest, Illinois, he played the part of Oberon, the fairy king, in Shakespeare’s “Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

“I still have dinner with Queen Titania. She’s looking pretty good,” Bell said.

Bell's Eccentric Cafe

License plates at Bell’s Eccentric Cafe in Kalamazoo.

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