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Thread: How to pick a brewer-hop breeding issues

  1. #1
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    Oct 2006
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    Taos, NM USA
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    How to pick a brewer-hop breeding issues

    So I guess I start with the question, " How would you pick a brewer to show off or kill a new variety of hops, given the hops are in small quantities?".

    One issue is the ability to use small amounts of whole leaf hops. Next is a brewer that will push it to the edge to show what the hops are about--and be able to brag about the accomplishment. Next would be the brewer that can make the new girls shine and glow while lucky tasters can bask in the new flavor options.

    Only with the glow and hope of a better future for hop flavors will some of these new breedings/clonings continue... ( And a few other reality issues).

    So, who would you pick for a great brewer to showcase great, pure blooded, bred from the wilds of the high mountains, North American genetics, native American hops, that thrive at latitude 37 or less, and can grow organically?

    I hear that hop breeders are really just marketing companies.

    That's not me. These hops self sell once you taste the flavor options. And they thrive where other hop varieties can't.

    I want to make this real and I don't think it's that hard. I'm not going to quit, it's just hard to expand without some support and inputs at this scale.

    I've really appreciated this forum and discussions- I've learned alot and continue to do so. All brewing tips are helpful.

    I found dry hopping gives the best flavors of the hops and we learned (after the kegs ran out while picking) that folks that brought "cheap" beer could put a half of a cone in a beer and get all of the flavor out of the hop and never notice the flavor of the original beer. New trend? - hop cones with a beer?

    So, "who would you let your daughter go to the prom with?" or really, "who would you let brew with your special hop girls?".

    Thanks all.

  2. #2
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    If you want to get market attention with a new hop variety, AB or Coors/Miller are about the only ones that will get commercial attention. Even the Euro beers will care more about extract. Cruel reality. How many delightful varieties are leaving commercial production because the big guys don't want them any more? Difficult to get growers interested much beyond the omnipresent CTZ.
    Last edited by Moonlight; 09-19-2008 at 02:23 AM.

  3. #3
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    local option

    Sounds to me like you should look at your most local options. You probably know all the local brewers in your area. Am I correct in getting the impression that they don't fit the bill? Or are you looking for a larger area of impact?
    Do you have more hops than the locals can deal with? Sorry, I guess all I have is more questions!

  4. #4
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    holy crap! I just about snorted my coffee! It is early but at first glance it looks like "finding a brewer top breeding issues-- Wow complete different forum I think.

    I would second local or close. They will understand the local names and terroir perhaps. You have many choices (if you want to cross the state line) and many good choices too

    It is now a process of finding--

    1. Most important: a brewery where the owner and the brewer are in agreement Even if they are the same person. An agreement that this is a great venture when interrrupting business as usual. This brewer/owner/money guy agreement is not always there

    2. Communication-- also someone close is good. You need someone who can give feedback in incremental steps not just at the end of growing season or in midst of problem

    3. Willingness to work with difficulties of agricultural nature. Good back up for plague and pestilince Understanding of the different time frame and seasons

    Sure creativity and love of hops and the willingness to put time in close to the hops -- they thrive on all that extra love. Willing to pick maybe. I would nominate Moab brewcrew as best pickers when we had a picking party. They came, they mastered dual picking, they picked until they made their 50 lbs untill 3 pm in the blistering sun. Also Three Rivers came and picked till he was done. Other came with ideas of a hundred lbs until shown the bag that holds about a 100# and then when the picking by hand (slow) started 50# went to thirty or 25 or so pounds. Staying true to your goal is a great trait even in the sun and heat!
    Press http://www.montrosepress.com/article...6680736341.txt


    And I'll take your bucket hops (from earlier post) and promise them free range living in the more pampered environ of Colorado.
    Last edited by AlexisScarlett; 09-19-2008 at 06:31 AM.

  5. #5
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    I'm missing it...

    I am unfortunately missing something here. Wildcrafter, what exactly are you looking for? This is what I understand: you are searching for a brewery to buy your hand-picked, organic hops which were grown in an area not known for hops (NM)? There must be a ton of people interested in that, just looking at the (sorry) marketability of such an idea.

    As far as I recall, there is at least one brewery in Taos - are you not associated with them?

  6. #6
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    [QUOTE=einhorn]I am unfortunately missing something here. Wildcrafter, what exactly are you looking for?"

    Opinions of brewers by brewers.

    Scale issues. Passion. New turf. New plants. But,,,,,, new options? Who cares?

    Again, who do you think cares passionately about a new bunch of options-hopwise.

    I've been clued into a few passionate brewers that might be able to help this project move to a higher level. They sound great to me. I just thought I might ask for a few opinions about brewers and brewery abilities/passions.

    Thanks again!

  7. #7
    mic_mac Guest
    Hi Wildcrafter,
    I can't really comment too helpfully about who you should work with - as I'm not very local!

    But depending on hop quantities, obvious choices would be either someone as local as possible, &/or the funkier/punkier end of the established micro world - Stone aren't *too* far away are they? (my knowledge of US geography is not great!?).

    Anyway the other reason I wanted to post is that I'm curious as to how both you & Alexis Scarlett process the hops, if you're new to hop-growing (do you dry them? if so how? or do they all go to brew fresh/green hop beers?).

    The reason I ask is that I'm talking with a local farmer about the possibility of getting him to grow some hops, but there's no oasthouses for a couple of hundred miles

    He currently grows fruit & veg, incl asparagus, so he's keen also to look at growing the shoots (aka "Hop Asparagus"), as they're touted as the most expensive vegetable in the world!

    Apologies if I'm asking Qs answered elsewhere.

    cheers
    Mike McG
    Betwixt Beer Co - Betwixt Mersey & Dee, Wirral, nr Liverpool, UK.
    http://www.betwixtbeer.co.uk

  8. #8
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    Thanks for the thoughts Mike. "Funky and wild brewers", "out of the box" --sounds about right when combined with passion. Anybody around here that has tasted our homebrews from these hops really loves them. The common comment from tasters is, "what did you do to the beer? I really like this beer and I don't usually like beer so much"- and this is with IBU's at 35-42 in a simple ale.

    Drying- just get 'er done and timely. I made simple screens. I dry in the shade as the humidity here is about 8-13%. After a couple of days, into brown bags and into the house that's at 8%. ASAP, into ziplocks for weighing and squishing, then the freezer. PIA. Scale issues.

    Where you are at ,mic-mac, maybe build some kind of solar powered oasthouse where the solar plenum can be heated by another source as well as the sun. Dry fruits and more in the off season. Wish I had one too! Next year?

    Fresh hops didn't seem to desired by any of the many local brewers I spoke with. Why??

    Grow male hops for hop shoots? Quick growers, vigorous, early---mow it?

    Anyway, here's a pick of the simple drying screens (we use them for drying many things).

    Here is also a bit of local press about the breedings. Numbers and more aren't right, but it's the press. I've been studying/growing/breeding the local hops since '93. We did get a bit more real last year. We've gotten pretty good at the breedings, finally.

    http://www.taosnews.com/articles/200...9963325846.txt

    This story got picked up all over North America due to the high altitude growing of hops. I guess they forgot about the low latitude issues that make the NM hops "special". Latitude 37 to latitude 36, but at elevation.

    Ralph is right, growing hops is rough and demands patience, passion, time. If it's just about the money, go get a life.
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  9. #9
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    Hops

    Very interesting article. How are you picking the hops? It doesn't seem to be economically viable to pick by hand, even hiring cheap labor; maybe if enough farmers got together to form a co-op of some sort, you could share equipment.

    Cheers.

    Bill Velek -- Grow-Hops now has 2,385 members: http://www.tinyurl.com/29zr8r

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by billvelek
    Very interesting article. How are you picking the hops? It doesn't seem to be economically viable to pick by hand, even hiring cheap labor; maybe if enough farmers got together to form a co-op of some sort, you could share equipment.

    Cheers.

    Bill Velek -- Grow-Hops now has 2,385 members: http://www.tinyurl.com/29zr8r
    Bill, I've written before that this is only 450 unique plants, all organic, all handpicked, for research and breeding purposes. Handpicking isn't viable for many purposes- like selling quantities of hops for the cheap.

    Sharing equipment at the same time with the same timely need means it's a neighbor.... that you like.

    You can read more here at Probrewer.com


  11. #11
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    No commercial production?

    Well, I had the impression that your experiment might be for the purpose of identifying the best hops to be grown commercially in your area. I don't know what the profit margin is ... assuming decent harvest and lowered cost from machinery ... or whether that would be the most profitable crop to grow there. The high cost of hops makes it seem attractive, but it seems that the farmers usually get only a very small portion of that. Before the shortage, I think they were usually getting something like five bucks a pound or less, with production typically close to an average of about a ton per acre = $10k or less/acre 'gross' (before costs: equipment, labor, fuel, fertilizer, irrigation if needed, etc.). But good luck with whatever you are doing.

    Cheers.

    Bill Velek

  12. #12
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    Here are some hop plants that were grown with the 10 foot high trellis system.
    This is on the Rodgers Mesa, in Colorado. Up the road in Paionia there is a hop farm that uses the traditional 20 foot trellis and they recently fabricated a some what automatic hop picking unit. Maybe AlexisScarlett can supply the name and some pictures of the farm. Hops grown outside of the traditional growing regions are going to see some hesitation from brewers to use them; varying A.A's, different characteristics, higher price. It just takes one brewer to jump in and hopefully the flavor and sales speak for itself. I think this is what Wildcrafter is asking
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  13. #13
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    Nohandslance is quite right about, " it just takes one person(brewer?) to jump in and "care". I'm simply asking other brewers that if you were in these shoes with new breeds of hops, "who would you pick to brew with the best special hops even if it's not yourself?".

    It's a breeding project/experiment. It's all about "who cares". Come on, it's a voting year ta' boot!

    Nohandslance is also right about short trellis systems and other topics like, new turf/locations, new plant options, new farm methods because of options, etc.... and these are some of the kind of things that slow down development of any new thing.

    Bill, about commercially viable varieties that can grow in my area. Nobody grows hops here, ever, on purpose, at even a 1 acre scale. (Kick me now if you can show I'm wrong). The 1885 territorial governor of NM told the world NM did grow hops at the World Industrial and Cotton Expo in 1885 in New Orleans and he (William Gillet Ritch) said the hops from here were the very best in the world. Look it up.

    I read this year that the hops researchers from across the pond had studied 50 years of hop growing and growers in NM and AZ and had concluded that we have the high temp hops for the future global warming. Had to be an easy survey/study as nobody in these 2 states grow quantities of hops on purpose.

    We are the fools I guess as we only grow the hops from the -35F elevations.

    If nobody cares then we all get the same hops from now on--get it?

    We're all happy when we have no options. I am now ruined for life as I have tasted and grown the options- I see the difference and I have tasted them.

    When I started to get real with this hops breeding and development, hops were at $1.87/# to the grower and I was present for some big quantity deals at that price only a few years ago.

    The growing of hops wasn't looked at as the reality. The reality is in developing native North American, awesome hops that nature has had a choice in creating. If they brew great, they will be chosen. If they taste nasty, maybe somebody will want them for the anticancer drugs in them. But I can grow them here in NM and I live here. And they brew awesome. I feel like I'm cheating for great beer with some of the winning plants. And I'm a hack brewer, but I can extract like a champ- not fully ignorant.

    I hear the bottom will fall right on out of this market in less than 5 years. Too many plantings around the world again. True? Should I quit now and go get a life and drink many beers trying to forget that I might have had a chance to make a difference and help us all have some awesome new hops??? But I was too late??

    Really??

    Anybody else care?

    Just like hop growing, "this ain't hard and this ain't simple", and best yet is, "your opinion matters".

    My quote is always- " Jobs for plants, plants for jobs". It is my basis for native plant research. This is now the "who cares" stage.

  14. #14
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    First, have you seen the book "Tinged with Gold?" It is a great history of hops in the US. You may find the descriptions of low tech kilns useful. Fascinating book none the less.
    I still am a bit curious about your inquiry. I am still smarting from the loss of what used to be desirable commercial varieties that have abruptly fallen out of favor. Horizon, Newport, soon to be Perle, and the list goes on. We micros can only follow the whim of what the majors contract the growers to farm. Look at Simcoe- Tons of money spent to develop this patented variety, hugely in demand, yet the grower pulled out every rhizome to put in CTZ. He wanted more profit per acre and us brewers were screwed. HopUnion replanted because of the vehement demand, but the crop will be insufficient for many years.
    I am always interested in unique hop flavors, but gun shy of formulating a beer based on something that may not be available the following year.
    I would most certainly be willing to try a new variety, but still being cautious about building a brand on a tenuous availability.

  15. #15
    mic_mac Guest
    Thanks for all of that . . . (incl the v interesting & positive news piece)

    about the drying - I've been picking a pound or 2 of wild & 2 semi-wild varieties (allotment-grown that have gone a bit feral!) for the past few years & we simply freeze them ("wet"), then use them as we need to - dry-hopping the odd cask as a special. ("wet hopping" or "green hopping" I guess?)

    It hadn't occurred to me to dry the hops a little before hand, but if it works . . . ?

    You mentioned 8% in there - what does this refer to (& how do you measure it?)

    In terms of correct drying - I'd heard about people taking a very small hops sample, weighing it, drying it to death, then weighing it again, to get a fairly accurate total moisture content, then aiming for a specific moisture content so as not to have rot in the pocket/packet & not to have spontaneous combustion! But I guess if you're freezing them, that's not going to be too much of a risk!?

    The drying screens seems a sensible small-scale way of doing it, coupled with freezing, I'm guessing it means you don't need to be *too* accurate with the moisture content?

    I think your advice about having back-up drying power is very wise - the last few summers are proving to be more "windy & wet" than "global warming" here Though that said, we do still have some Gulf Stream warmth & good apple-growing & barley, wheat, etc (NW UK, betwixt Liverpool & Wales)

    About the 'hop asparagus' - I've heard of some amazingly vigorous growth in female plants (I'm not sure if males taste the same?). Have you eaten either? - supposed to be very nice - I think I read that in UK delis, where you can actually find them - a jar of pickled hop shoots was selling for about 15-20 (c.$30-40)! - not bad if you can do it as a secondary crop.

    you agree with Ralph & say "growing hops is rough and demands patience, passion, time. If it's just about the money, go get a life"

    Fair enough - & I know my limitations too - I brew & sell beer but through selling beer at local food festivals & now "standing" about 6 farmers' markets a month, I'm meeting local farmers & customers interested in local produce.

    Currently there is no local produce for beer (I am thinking of doing some fruit brews) - there's no commercial hops & there are (feed) barley growers, but the nearest maltster is 84 miles away & I don't know if the malting quality is possible (another thing to look at!).

    Anyway, this has led me to wonder if we could in a small way, persuade a local grower to have a go at growing hops, using small-scale methods, possibly using the dwarf/hedgerow varieities (easier to grow & pick + more resistant to wilt/disease I think).

    The guy I'm talking to is experienced in fruit (incl trelliswork for berries), veg, barley, wheat, etc - & he's quite keen, so I'm hopeful we can do something together.

    Cheers for the advice (& any more!) & best of luck with finding a brewer - I would have thought they would be beating your door down!
    Mike.

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