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Hops 2015 update: The bigger picture

If you haven’t memorized the details within the June Hop Acreage Report you might want to read that first, but now we have the world Hop Market and Crop Development Report from the Barth-Haas Group, the world’s largest hop broker.

So here’s what’s new since last week:

– “Worldwide hop acreage surpasses 50.000 ha (123,500 acres) for the first time since 2010; continued shift towards aroma/flavour in the US and more varietal changes in Germany. Favourable growing conditions in Europe to date; some concern about unusually high temperatures in the Yakima Valley in early June coupled with rolling water rationing in some locations.”

In fact, mandatory water rationing in the Wapato Irrigation District means a good chunk of hops receive water for 10 days, then don’t for 5. A friend sent me this photo of plants after three days without water at 90 degrees (Fahrenheit). Write your own caption. I like, “Beer is an agricultural product.”

Yakima Valley hops, 3 days without water

More from the report: “Overall, at this stage, the crop appears to be average. The unusually hot days and warm nights have moved the plants well ahead of a normal schedule. Some growers have been struggling to maintain sufficient labor force to complete certain tasks on time and there are some concerns about water availability in junior water districts, which have curtailed deliveries at a time when temperatures have spiked. The excessive heat has increased spider mite populations. Control measures are being applied. Some powdery mildew is showing at this time. Fungicide applications are being applied for control.”

– As promised, German growers have planted more of the three new varieties with “New World” aroma character that so many brewers (and presumably drinkers) want. Mandarina Bavaria acreage is up 109%, Hallertau Blanc 127%, Huell Melon 82%. Of course, it will be 2017 before rhizomes planted this year produce a full crop.

This news is a drag: “The structural change among German hop growers continues: 21 operations ceased after the 2014 harvest leaving 1.171 active hop farms for 2015. The average farm size has increased to 15,2 ha (up from 8,5 ha in 2000).”

– “The Czech Republic reports a modest increase of 3.5% to a total of 4.617 ha. Slovenia increases by 110 ha, mainly in the Celeia variety, to reach 1.406 ha. Poland also expands acreage by some 100 ha to 1.510 ha. China reduces hop acreage by 255 ha and drops to 2.400 ha.”

– The market outlook: “2015 is fully contracted out in both the fine aroma and flavour categories. The availability of spot quantities will depend on the outcome of the crop. The market is considerably softer in standard aroma varieties (mainly Perle and Hallertau Tradition) as well as high alpha hops where supply and demand are more or less in balance.”

And: “The 2015 spot market is set to be a challenging one again for the industry.”

In which case you could be reading a lot soon about soaring hop prices. Those won’t affect brewers who have contracts, so short term are not an excuse for big time increases in hop prices. Long term, some sorting out to do.

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The Session #100 topic announced

The SessionJack Perdue has announced the topic for The Session #101 will be Bottles, Caps and Other Beer Detritus.

Here is the premise: “While the number and quality of our beer choices has certainly improved over the recent decade, have you paid any attention to the rest of the package. Those things we normally glance over and throw away when we have poured and finished our beer. These are sometimes works of art in themselves. Bottle caps, labels, six-pack holders, even the curvature of the bottle. For this month’s The Session theme, I’m asking contributors to share their thoughts on these things, the tangential items to our obsession.”

For some people they are not the tangential items but the obsession itself.

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Tired of hops? Consider featherbowling

MONDAY BEER LINKS, MUSING 06.22.15

Believe in featherbowling.
My favorite read of the week, maybe month. I’ll admit the beer connection is minimal, but the Cadiuex Cafe was an early outpost for flavorful beer in Detroit. Delightful on the cafe side, fascinating on the bowling side. [Via ESPN the Magazine]

Doom Bar and the Question of Origin.
The quick summary: the popular UK beer Doom Bar is brewed outside of Cornwall as well as in Cornwall, which is not what the brand’s owner Molson-Coors would have drinkers believe. Now that the cat’s out of the bag, Boak & Bailey write, what does that mean? Among other things they “suspect it will take months for most people to clock this news and, even then, many won’t care — it’s a popular beer which presumably sells to the trade at a competitive price and it’s still Cornish-ish, right?” I wish they weren’t right, but I figure they are. [Via Boak & Baley’s Beer Blog]

June Hop Acreage Report.
If You Drink It, They Will Grow: A Changing Landscape for Hops.
More on Hops: Prices and Future Growth.
Peak hop: Obsession with flavour may be dulling our beer palates.
Hops are giving you man boobs? Poppycock.
As I noted last week on Twitter, a few years ago hardly anybody beyond hop farmers paid attention to the USDA June Hop Report. That’s changed. Bart Watson of the Brewers Association analyzes it in depth (first link), the Bryan Roth goes deeper (next two). The fourth link isn’t about production, but beyond reminding us of the new interest in hops dredges up the notion that an obsession with hops keeps drinkers from exploring other flavors in beer. I disagree. The last link is to something I posted Friday, about the silly statement that hops give men man boobs. You’d be dead from alcoholism long before you could consume enough 8-prenylnaringenin to result in estrogenic effects.

Should I be drinking local or sustainable beer?
“Which is greener: beer brewed on wind energy that is trucked 1,000 miles to the consumer, or beer brewed on coal energy with minimal transport needed?” [Via Grist]

New Chinese Beer Saves Rhinos By Using Fake Rhino Horn.
Ingredient of the Week No. 1. [Via Eater]

Carrot craft beer is being brewed in Australia.
Ingredient of the Week No. 2. The beer is called Wabbit Season. [Via Mashable]

How Solid Are The Breweries In Your State?
“The question was which states have the breweries that have the most above-average beers, and which states have the breweries that make the most superlative beers.” Hop science I get, this I don’t. [Via BeerGraphs]

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Hops are giving you man boobs? Poppycock

Yes, drink enough IPAs and you could end up with man boobs — so the headline on Wednesday’s much passed around story is, technically, a bit more accurate than the second paragraph: “Yes, you read that right: Hops are giving men man boobs.”

The article relies on “Sacred and Herbal Healing Beers” to demonize hops. The book drew controversial conclusions in 1998, and there considerable research since, unearthing plenty of contradicting evidence.

The villain is 8-prenylnaringenin, a phytoestrogen mentioned in the story. Maybe the villain; not even that is exactly clear. But there is a bottom line; 8-prenylnaringenin is “abundant” in hops only when compared to the average plant. Research in Germany, cited in this 2004 Brauwelt story, notes that “levels in hops are very low. The concentration is below 0.01% and thus e.g. about 100 times lower than that of xanthohumol.” Hop researchers have been studying xanthohumal for some time, trying to promote its health benefits. The problem is you’d have to drink so much beer to enjoy to get the benefits you’d probably die from alcoholism.

Various studies found that between 0.02 and 0.24 mg/l of 8-prenylnaringenin end up in finished beer and that “humans would have to consume more than 1000 liters of beer daily to achieve detectable estrogenic effects.”

Hops add no calories to beer. But drink enough 200-calorie IPAs and you’ve got a good running start on man boobs. Just don’t blame the hops

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Thinking outside the brown bottle

Jester King Le  Petit PrincePardon the length, but I’m posting the entirety of the email that Jester King Brewery sent out yesterday. Thoughts after the message.

Earlier this year, we began experimenting with packaging some of our beer in green bottles. We started by taking a portion of our February batch of Le Petit Prince Farmhouse Table Beer, and naturally conditioning it in bottles like the one seen in the photo above. After three months of conditioning, we’re quite pleased with the results! We started selling “green bottle Le Petit Prince” in our tasting room this past weekend, and we plan on packaging some of our upcoming batches of Noble King and Mad Meg in green bottles. We’re excited to see where this experimentation takes us! For now, Le Petit Prince in green bottles is only available at our tasting room, and we still have Le Petit Prince available in brown bottles like before.

So why are we doing this?

Here’s our head brewer Garrett Crowell’s explanation:

“My pursuit of the use of green bottles stems mostly from the character of all of my favorite beers. Cuvee de Jonquilles, Blaugies, Thiriez, Fantôme, Cantillon, Dupont, all use green bottles. I’ve had brown bottle versions of some of these beers, and have had them on draft as well and there is an element missing from those versions that the green bottles have. While green bottles permit the risk of light struck/skunky character, I feel they add character, even beyond skunkiness. So many breweries have attempted to mimic the classic Saison Dupont yeast profile, and I feel what is most often missing is the light struck character that is integral to the profile of that beer.

Beer is as delicate as wine. Pasteurized, shelf stable beer has dumbed down beer consumers into believing that something will still taste fresh after leaving it in the trunk of their car, or in the sun, etc. Hopefully, green bottles will emphasize that our beer is a living thing, and that the way it’s treated will significantly alter the experience one can have with it.

I feel that beer is losing individuality through structure, and the expectation to fulfill guidelines. I absolutely like skunky beer, oxidized beer, or “flawed” beer. We allow our beer to pick up “peripheral” character that deviates from guidelines, whether it’s a bit of oak, Brettanomyces, or lactic acidity. Horse barn, goat sweat, and brett character are embraced, yet skunkiness is considered a flaw. If the way I create, and eventually package a beer renders it unfit for BJCP guidelines, then I consider that a success and furtherance of creativity. I feel as though the status quo of brewing is to find a set of guidelines, create a product that fits within them, enter a competition, and receive an award. It reminds me of standardized testing from grade school. Students spend half the year learning how to take a test, and creativity is suppressed for the sake of passing test scores.

I understand that green bottles and light struck character are going to be a challenge for most beer enthusiasts. I think we’re in a unique and important position to break down some of the indoctrination that is present and document something truly beautiful and unique.”

                  — Jester King Head Brewer Garrett Crowell

I think this is brilliant, even though I’m the guy who doesn’t like to buy Saison Dupont “off the shelf.” I usually ask if the store has unopened cases and if I can have a bottle from one of them, and then expect to see it put quickly into a paper bag. I hurry it home and store it in the dark. My dermatologist wishes I was as careful with myself.

(A couple of weeks ago at Country Boy Brewing in Lexington, Kentucky, when customers who had picked up bottles from a special release left them sitting in the sun on another part of the table where we were sitting I unobtrusively shoved them into the shade. And these were brown bottles. Heck, I’m careful where I put glasses of pilsner on a sunny day.)

So my palate doesn’t necessarily align with Crowell’s. Skunkiness generally masks other flavors I prefer from beer — I typed generally because I’m willing to concede that just above threshold it may add complexity. But that’s me. And if I want Petit Prince in a brown bottle I can still get it. Looks like a win-win, because I’m for anything that emphasizes that “beer is a living thing, and that the way it’s treated will significantly alter the experience one can have with it.”

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