Hops across the Pond!

To read the ger­man trans­la­ti­on: click here.

Lot­te Peplow, the Bre­wers Association’s Ame­ri­can Craft Beer Ambassa­dor for Euro­pe, takes a deep dive into hop usa­ge in Ame­ri­can craft beer…..

Exci­te­ment is moun­ting among­st Ame­ri­can craft bre­wers as the annu­al hop har­ve­st in the USA approa­ches this fall. It’s not only bre­wers who are exci­ted, beer lovers around the world wait in hea­dy expec­ta­ti­on for yet more inno­va­ti­ve, incre­di­ble tasting Ame­ri­can craft beers packed full of the hig­hest qua­li­ty raw mate­ri­als, to be launched.

In the 1980s Ame­ri­can craft beer inno­va­ti­on and crea­ti­vi­ty kick­star­ted the craft beer revo­lu­ti­on that we now see emu­la­ted all over the world. Bold, full-​flavoured, hop for­ward beers ‘wowed’ the beer drin­king public and today ground-​breaking, style-​diverse, high qua­li­ty Ame­ri­can craft beers can be found throug­hout Euro­pe. Examp­les are worth see­king out becau­se Ame­ri­can craft beer regu­lar­ly wins top hono­urs at high pro­fi­le beer com­pe­ti­ti­ons around the world that are jud­ged by inter­na­tio­nal panels of experts.

The pro­xi­mi­ty of many Ame­ri­can craft bre­wers to hop fields allows them to spend time with the hop gro­wers and in the hop yards befo­re, during and after har­ve­st to con­stant­ly eva­lua­te hops and sel­ect what they need. Tim Matthews, VP of Glo­bal Bre­wing for the CAN­ar­chy Craft Bre­wery Coll­ec­ti­ve who­se brand port­fo­lio includes Oskar Blues from Long­mont, Colo­ra­do and Cigar City Bre­wing from Tam­pa, Flo­ri­da, explains: “Inter­ac­tion with gro­wers is a huge focus and all bre­wers should have con­stant com­mu­ni­ca­ti­ons with their sup­pli­ers. We spend a lot of man hours get­ting all over the place and having face to face time with our sup­pli­ers so they under­stand what we’re asking for and what is the most eco­no­mic­al­ly sus­tainable stra­tegy to achie­ve a pro­duct we want and that works for everyone.

You’ve got to under­stand what makes a hop tick,” he says. “Tracea­bi­li­ty is key. All hops have a QR code giving age, the Hop Sto­rage Index and how it has expe­ri­en­ced pro­ces­sing. We smell them, touch them, break them up – we don’t just want essen­ti­al oils, ter­pe­nes, and alpha com­pon­ents, nowa­days we want gly­co­si­des and espe­ci­al­ly poly­phe­nols (mole­cu­les most often invol­ved in haze formation).”

Ame­ri­can craft bre­wers’ pro­xi­mi­ty to desi­ra­ble hops in the United Sta­tes means that only 13% of hops used in the U.S. are purcha­sed from abroad. What’s more, the amount of hops being used by Ame­ri­can craft bre­wers is incre­asing – during the last 10 years the avera­ge amount of hops used by craft bre­we­ries has increased 87% to 1.72 pounds per bar­rel (PPB) in 2019 with a slight dip to 1.46 PPB in 2020, In 2020 143 hop varie­ties were used by Ame­ri­can craft bre­wers, up from 92 varie­ties in 2009. The com­bi­na­ti­on of increased hop usa­ge and a wider hop varie­ty allows bre­wers to craft ground-​breaking new beers that push the boun­da­ries of tas­te and fla­vour. Ame­ri­can craft bre­wers have also deve­lo­ped pack­a­ging exper­ti­se to mini­mi­ze oxy­gen in beer and pre­ser­ve fla­vour for lon­ger. This is essen­ti­al when beer is expor­ted overseas.

Hops are an agri­cul­tu­ral pro­duct and a sin­gle hop varie­tal varies wide­ly from year to year, farm to farm depen­ding on ter­ro­ir, wea­ther and con­di­ti­ons. Even at the hig­hest ‘qua­li­ty’ the hop pro­fi­le will chan­ge hence why bre­wers visit the hop farms regu­lar­ly to main­tain grower rela­ti­onships, sel­ect hops and adjust recipes.

Sier­ra Neva­da Bre­wing Co, from Chi­co, Cali­for­nia is one of the pio­neers of the Ame­ri­can craft bre­wing revo­lu­ti­on and was instru­men­tal in chan­ging the beer drin­kers’ per­cep­ti­on of Ame­ri­can craft beer from the 1980s onwards. Their flag­ship beer, Sier­ra Neva­da Pale Ale using the cas­ca­de hop, was one of the first examp­les of Ame­ri­can craft beer to be expor­ted overseas.

Scott Jen­nings, Inno­va­ti­on Brew­mas­ter for Sier­ra Neva­da Bre­wing Co, adds: “It’s very important to build clo­se rela­ti­onships with our hop far­mers and we track varia­ti­ons in the hop cha­rac­ter along with them. We visit seve­ral times a year – just befo­re the har­ve­st to get a sen­se of the qua­li­ty avai­la­bi­li­ty, then again at har­ve­st time whe­re we can make sel­ec­tions of the varie­ties that har­ve­st ear­ly and one again after the har­ve­st so we can sel­ect the late har­ve­s­ted varieties.”

But what hap­pens when it comes to craf­ting a new beer? Does the reci­pe come first or the hop sel­ec­tion? Scott Jen­nings explains: “It goes both ways depen­ding on the source of the inspi­ra­ti­on! Some­ti­mes a clear men­tal fla­vour pro­fi­le is the way for­ward other times the­re is a beau­tiful new hop that needs a beer to go in so we build it that way.”

Ame­ri­can craft bre­wers are renow­ned the world over for their inno­va­ti­ve use of raw mate­ri­als and bre­wing tech­ni­ques. Stone Bre­wing Co from Escon­di­do, Cali­for­nia has a two-​pronged approach to hop sel­ec­tion – ‘core beers’ and ‘hop inno­va­ti­on.’ Joel Gros­ser VP Bre­wing Ope­ra­ti­ons and Brew­mas­ter at Stone explains: “Core beers hop sel­ec­tion is focu­sed on con­sis­ten­cy. We sel­ect lots that deli­ver the exact same fla­vour pro­fi­le year over year and want every Stone IPA to be the same ama­zing expe­ri­ence no mat­ter whe­re you have it. We accom­plish this through our rela­ti­onship with the gro­wers and suppliers.

For ‘hop inno­va­ti­on’ we’re loo­king for some­thing new and exci­ting. Inno­va­ti­on is part of the Stone DNA and stay­ing at the fore­front of hop varie­ties and fla­vour is cri­ti­cal to our success.”

By way of an exam­p­le, Jere­my Moy­nier, Seni­or Mana­ger Inno­va­ti­on and Sup­p­ly Chain for Stone, adds: “We had an inte­res­t­ing dis­cus­sion about a par­ti­cu­lar newer hop that has gai­ned a lot of atten­ti­on recent­ly and is still expan­ding to meet demand. We are split on this hop but what intri­gues me is that it’s dif­fe­rent. More straw­ber­ry and her­bal notes than the tro­pi­cal and citrus for­ward hops that have gai­ned accla­im in the last few years. We look at what you can blend it with – other hops, yeast, other ingre­di­ents to make a real­ly spe­cial beer. This is part of Hop Innovation.”

Ame­ri­can craft beer is now available in dozens of count­ries inter­na­tio­nal­ly and in 2019 exports were valued at $69 mil­li­on. Cana­da is the lar­gest glo­bal export mar­ket for Ame­ri­can craft beer accoun­ting for 25.8% of all exports, fol­lo­wed by the UK with 11.9%, Swe­den with 6% and the rest of Euro­pe with 11%.

Top Ten U.S. Hop Varie­ties 2020*

  1. Cas­ca­de
  2. Cen­ten­ni­al
  3. Citra
  4. Mosaic
  5. Sim­coe
  6. Chi­nook
  7. El Dora­do
  8. Ama­ril­lo
  9. Crys­tal
  10. Magnum (US)

So next time you pick up a can of Oskar Blues One‑Y with its 7‑strong hop bill, Sier­ra Neva­da Hazy Litt­le Thing con­tai­ning six hop varie­ties or Stone IPA hops with eight hops app­re­cia­te the time, care and atten­ti­on that goes into sourcing the hig­hest qua­li­ty raw ingre­di­ents to pro­du­ce the finest qua­li­ty Ame­ri­can craft beer wort­hy of export all around the world.


* Bre­wers Asso­cia­ti­on Hop Usa­ge Sur­vey 2019. The Bre­wers Asso­cia­ti­on under­ta­kes an annu­al hope usa­ge sur­vey to help hop gro­wers to make important plan­ting decis­i­ons. Mem­bers pro­vi­ding input sin­ce 2007 have shown the mar­ket com­ple­te­ly shift from 20% to 80% aro­ma acres.

Lot­te Peplow is the Ame­ri­can Craft Beer Ambassa­dor in Euro­pe for the Bre­wers Asso­cia­ti­on and is based in the UK. She is a Cer­ti­fied Cice­ro­ne®, BDI accre­di­ted Beer Som­me­lier, beer wri­ter, inter­na­tio­nal beer judge, beer com­mu­ni­ca­tor, home­bre­wer and beer lover.

About the Bre­wers Association

The Bre­wers Asso­cia­ti­on (BA) is the not-​for-​profit tra­de asso­cia­ti­on dedi­ca­ted to small and inde­pen­dent Ame­ri­can bre­wers, their beers and the com­mu­ni­ty of bre­wing enthu­si­asts. The BA repres­ents 5,000-plus U.S. bre­we­ries. The BA’s inde­pen­dent craft bre­wer seal is a wide­ly adop­ted sym­bol that dif­fe­ren­tia­tes beers by small and inde­pen­dent craft bre­wers. The BA orga­ni­zes events inclu­ding the World Beer Cup℠Gre­at Ame­ri­can Beer Fes­ti­val®Craft Bre­wers Con­fe­rence & Bre­w­Ex­po Ame­ri­ca®SAVOR℠: An Ame­ri­can Craft Beer & Food Expe­ri­enceHome­brew ConNatio­nal Home­brew Com­pe­ti­ti­on and Ame­ri­can Craft Beer Week®. The BA publis­hes The New Bre­wer® maga­zi­ne, and Bre­wers Publi­ca­ti­ons™ is the lar­gest publis­her of bre­wing lite­ra­tu­re in the U.S.
Beer lovers are invi­ted to learn more about the dyna­mic world of craft beer at CraftBeer.com and about home­brewing via the BA’s Ame­ri­can Home­bre­wers Asso­cia­ti­on and the free Brew Guru™ mobi­le app. Fol­low us on Face­bookTwit­ter and Insta­gram.

Bre­wers Association
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80302 Boul­der, Colo­ra­do, USA

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