Establishment and marketing of hops production in the mid-Atlantic

Final report for ONE15-247

Project Type: Partnership
Funds awarded in 2015: $14,956.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2017
Region: Northeast
State: New Jersey
Project Leader:
James Simon
Rutgers University
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Project Information


The recent lack of hop cultivation in the Mid-Atlantic has left this US region void of base-line information regarding best horticultural practices to optimize growth, yield and chemistry of this potential cash crop. Thus, the objectives of this study were to survey industry demand, initiate a demonstration hop plot and evaluate the yield, disease pressure, bittering and aroma characteristics of major hop varieties using a standard horticultural production system.

Preliminary studies undertaken in New Jersey by Rutgers University Cooperative Extension agents and staff suggest that this region is conducive to hop production though the economics and profitability of commercial production for this area are not well developed and thus, considered risky. One of the major constraints by growers is the production of a consistent high quality product. Industry standards such as the content of alpha/beta acid and essential oils in female flowers or cones must be understood and achieved by growers for them to develop a consistent product and improve economic feasibility. 

In 2015 a hop demonstration plot was established at the Clifford E. & Melda Snyder Research & Extension Center in the northwestern part of the state (Pittstown, New Jersey).  In both 2015 and 2016, data was collected from the demonstration plot on harvest time, and yield of each hop variety trialed. Preliminary work was performed in 2015 to analyze the major essential oil volatiles found in hops sampled throughout the state.  In addition over the duration of the project (2015-2016) the bittering acids of the hop cones were analyzed for each variety in the demonstration trial.  Samples submitted by growers were also analyzed through a hop analysis service established in the Rutgers New Use Agriculture & Natural Products laboratory at the Cook College Campus, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ. Hop samples received from commercial growers were analyzed and results were communicated back to them within a week. 

Further interest and support from growers was obtained through extension and outreach activities, many of which helped encourage growers to submit their hop samples for biochemical analysis.  After assessing the samples it was found that many of the hop varieties growing in New Jersey were not meeting bittering acid quality standards.  As a result, subsequent meetings were held with growers to present these results and emphasize the need to better understand those cultural and management practices that could be used to improve hops quality.  In addition, the meetings greatly impacted and helped educate growers as to the importance of proper harvesting and drying of the hops as an important factor in controlling hop quality. There are many factors which now need to be examined to assist farmers in meeting quality standards and to increase profitability at the farm gate. 

In addition, field days and twilight meetings were held at the Snyder farm demonstration plot in Pittstown, NJ (NW NJ).  A digital film ( was also produced on this SARE project, which showed how chemists, agricultural researchers and extension specialists are collaborating to support commercial growers and breweries in the strengthening of this new emerging industry. This video was widely distributed among growers and even at a national trade show in Boulder, Colorado by one of our industry collaborators, Shimadzu Instruments. A scientific presentation on this continued work was also presented at both the 2016 and 2017 North Eastern American Society for Horticultural Science (NE-ASHS) meeting in Philadelphia, PA and also at the 3rd and 4th Flavors, Fragrances & Perception Symposium, hosted by the Rutgers Center for Sensory Sciences and Innovation, New Brunswick, NJ.

We have communicated the results of our project through in-depth discussions with several local brewers. This lead to a collaborative effort with two major microbreweries in New Jersey (Triumph Brewing Company and Riverhorse), where all of the hops harvested from the demonstration plot in 2016 were utilized to brew exclusive beers for a Rutgers University Breeding and Extension Program Celebration ( and later for sales. Both new beers (Sweet Dani Blonde and RUIPA) were well received by consumers as two new specialty beers. Extensive input from the brewers in New Jersey has given us guidance as to their interests, needs, quality expectations, and reservations.  All of which will be taken into account as we continue to perform hop research at Rutgers University in collaboration with growers and breweries in the state and region.


Hops (Humulus lupulus) are herbaceous, perennial bines grown worldwide for their female flowers or cones. Resins and essential oils produced within the lupulin glands of hop cones impart the flavor, aroma and preservative properties necessary for beer brewing. A burgeoning craft brewery industry has seen a rise in demand for US hops as reflected by the 28% increase in value of production from 2012 to 2013. Currently, Washington, Idaho and Oregon dominate US hop production, accounting for 31,848 of the 35,224 total acres grown annually. Although the Mid-atlantic area accounts for 34% of national brewery sales, virtually no profit is realized from this $249 million dollar hop industry. As interest builds in sourcing local hops it offers a unique opportunity for farmers in the Mid-Atlantic region to grow and provide a portion of the supply, creating a totally new source of income for farmers. Preliminary studies undertaken at Rutgers showed that the Mid-Atlantic zone is conducive to hops production. However, industry standards such as alpha acid and essential oil content must be realized to develop a consistent product and ensure economic feasibility. The recent lack of hop cultivation in the Northeastern US has left the region void of information regarding best horticultural practices to optimize growth, yield and chemistry of this cash crop. Thus, the objectives of this study are to survey industry demand, initiate a demonstration hop plot, provide a chemical analysis service to growers and determine best management to optimize hop production and quality in the Mid-Atlantic US.

Project Objectives:

Objectives/Performance Targets: The following objectives outline our proposed solution

1) Perform an informal survey of brewers at major craft breweries in New Jersey to assess current industry demand, preferences and interest in sourcing local hops for brewing.

2) Establish a 0.25-acre demonstration hopyard at the Clifford E. & Melda C. Snyder Research and Extension Farm in Pittstown, NJ. A total of ten hop varieties from certified virus free hop plants will be obtained from Zerrillos Greenhouses (Syracuse, NY), and Crosby Hop Farm LLC (Woodburn, OR).  The plot will been maintained throughout two growing seasons using Oregon and New York Hop Growers manuals as references.  Hops will be harvested, weighed, and used for chemical analysis by the Rutgers New Use Agriculture and Natural Plant Products laboratory.

3) A chemical analysis service will be provided to the growers to assess aroma, and bittering acids in hops.  Results will be compiled and distributed at regional horticultural meetings, and to local brewers.

4) The demonstration hopyard will be monitored for disease and insect pressure, survivability of the rhizomes and total yield data. This information on yield, bittering acids and aroma profiles will be has been presented to growers at grower/twilight meetings.


Click linked name(s) to expand/collapse or show everyone's info
  • Beau Byrtus
  • Winfred Cowgill
  • Ed Dager
  • John Grande
  • Frank Hahola
  • Megan Muehlbauer
  • Robert Pyne


Materials and methods:

1) Perform an informal survey of brewers at major craft breweries in New Jersey to assess current industry demand, preferences and interest in sourcing local hops for brewing.

Brewers were surveyed via phone calls, informal and formal visits to breweries.  The survey primarily consisted of explaining this project, and assessing the interest and support brewers had in local hop growing.  In addition we ended up fielding a significant number of questions on this project and the feasibility of growing hops in the Northeast/MidAtlantic region of the USA.

Breweries we surveyed included; Triumph Brewing, Riverhorse Brewery, Carton Brewery, Lone Eagle Brewery, and Conclave Brewing.

2) Design and build a 0.25-acre demonstration plot at the Clifford E. & Melda C. Snyder Research and Extension Farm in Pittstown, NJ. A total of ten hop varieties (20 plants per block with 2 blocks) from certified virus free hop plants will be obtained from Zerrillos Greenhouses (Syracuse, NY), and Crosby Hop Farm LLC (Woodburn, OR).  The plot was maintained throughout two growing seasons using Oregon and New York Hop Growers manuals as references.  Hops were harvested, weighed, and used for chemical analysis by the Rutgers New Use Agriculture and Natural Plant Products laboratory.

3) A chemical analysis service was provided to the growers (at no charge) to assess aroma, and bittering acids in hops.  Results were compiled and distributed at regional horticultural meetings, and to local brewers.

To acquire hops samples throughout the region a submission form was promoted through an NJAES press release, Email mailings, public announcements during extension meetings, and made available for download to growers throughout the region. The submission form included a concise description of hop cone sampling procedure, which was to request at least two sample replicates per variety tested. Sampling procedures were adopted and modified from the ASBC method Hops-1. This was to ensure an accurate comparison of data across multiple locations. Growers were given the option to have a complete analysis performed or individual analyses and provided the option of mailing a hard copy to the Simon lab as an alternative to email.

Analysis of hop quality; Bittering acids analysis

Alpha and beta acids were extracted from a 10 g dry cone sample and quantified for all samples using the ASBC published (International) method (Hops-14). 10 grams of dried hop cones were ground with a coffee grinder and extracted based on the cited protocol. Alpha acids (cohumulone and n- + ad-humulone) and beta acids (colupulone and n- + ad-lupulone) will be quantified by HPLC (Simon lab).

Essential oil analysis

Essential oils were extracted by hydrodistillation and collected using a Clevenger trap apparatus. Essential oil yield were determined by weighing oils and reported as mg aromatic volatile oil/g dry cones. Volatile oil composition was determined according to the ASBC method (Hops-17). Total volatiles were then separated and quantified using a Shimadzu TQ8040 gas chromatograph MS (Simon lab).

Results of analyses requested by farmers were returned within a week of receipt and the data and stored in a database (Excel) for data analysis and surveying purposes.


4) The demonstration hopyard was monitored for disease and insect pressure, survivability of the rhizomes and total cone yield data (Total fresh and dry weight per variety per block). This information on yield, bittering acids and aroma profiles was then presented to growers at grower/twilight meetings.

Disease and Insect Pressure

Disease and insect incidences were monitored each season and reported to growers at twilight meetings along with suggestions as to appropriate control methods.

Yield (Fresh and Dry Weight)

When attached cones reach approximately 20-25% moisture, the whole mines were manually cut at the base and cones harvested manually. Cones from all 20 plants were harvested, weighed (Fresh Weight) and dried down to approximately 8% moisture using a Powell walk in herb dryer, and dry weight will be recorded. 


A percentage of bines surviving year each year were recorded and reported to growers at twilight meetings.




Research results and discussion:

Figures 1-5 Hop_Final_Report

Optimization of harvest dates

Determination of optimal harvest was found to be challenging, but critical in obtaining cones at their peak alpha and beta acids levels.  Harvest dates for each variety in the demonstration plot were noted and recorded in both 2015, and 2016. (Figure 1). Overall, harvest dates of each variety were much later in 2015 than harvest dates of each variety in 2016.  This was likely attributable to the plants not yet being well established in 2015.  The chart in Figure 1 will serve as a reference for future harvest of hops for New Jersey growers.

Yields of fresh weight of hops

Yields of the fresh weight of 20 plants per hop variety (10 plants per block) were collected and recorded in both 2015 and 2016 from the demonstration plot.  The results are displayed in Figure 2.  Yields in 2015 were minimal as expected given the young age of the hops, while yields were nearly 10 fold higher in 2016. The hopyard is not expected to reach maximum production until year 3 (2017).

Chemical Analysis

Hop samples were purchased from commercial sources to develop the lab protocol to test alpha and beta acids and essential oil profiles of hops submitted from growers and from the Rutgers University demonstration hopyard.   In the first growing season of this project, 2015, hop samples from six growers were received and analyzed for alpha and beta acid content and for a subset of samples the essential oil content was assessed by GC/MS.  This preliminary data was collated with year 2 data and additional samples to build a database of hop quality across seasons, and varieties. (Figures 3-5)

Disease and Insect Observations

Throughout the duration of the project the only major diseases found at the collaborating farmers fields were powdery and downy mildews.  At collaborating grower sites, no major insect pressure was detected though both mildew diseases were observed. In contrast, at the Rutgers research station, preventative sprays were applied to minimize disease issues, which were found to be effective as the mildews were not observed following the spray treatments. However, insect pressure was high during both years at the demonstration plot. The identification of the insect pests plus the control methods used were presented  in the Twilight meeting handouts attached to the report.


Research conclusions:

Based upon the results of this project we were able to show that nearly 17 varieties of hops can be grown in New Jersey and likely throughout the Mid-Atlantic United States.  Unfortunately, many of the varieties grown did not produce bittering acids, at levels that reach the quality standards set by industry which are based upon hops sourced from the Pacific Northwest growing region.  Despite this limitation with some of the hop varieties, we found through surveys to brewers, conversations with growers and others in the brewing industry, there is still great interest in sourcing hops locally for small experimental brews. Rather this project showed the promising potential of locally grown hops given that the bittering acid content can improve with age (and here we analyzed largely hops harvests from young plants), and that improved management practices including harvesting time and postharvest handling provide possible solutions to improving bittering acid content.  In regard to the overall aroma content of the hops, growers and breweries found the volatile analysis/chemical profiling of their hops and our hops, to be informative and helpful as they often are also focused on speciality aromatic beers.

In moving forward with this research, we hope to optimize harvest times for each variety, and improve cultural methods to optimize the production of bittering acids and aroma in all hop varieties  with the long term goal of producing consistent quality hops in the Mid-Atlantic United States.  With this SARE pilot project,  we have been able to develop and will continue to maintain a pipeline to quickly assess the bittering acids of hops and their aromatic properties grown throughout the state and region. This service will be critical in the continued development of a commercial hop industry to provide a quality product to local breweries.


Participation Summary
6 Farmers participating in research

Education & Outreach Activities and Participation Summary

15 Consultations
2 Curricula, factsheets or educational tools
4 On-farm demonstrations
1 Published press articles, newsletters
3 Webinars / talks / presentations
2 Workshop field days
4 Other educational activities: Two poster presentations of scientific results at the Northeast American Society of Horticultural Science Meeting in 2016 and 2017, a third poster of scientific results at the New Jersey Agriculture Convention in 2017, and two additional posters at the 3rd and 4th Flavors, Fragrances & Perception Symposium hosted by the Rutgers Center for Sensory Sciences and Innovation, New Brunswick.

Participation Summary:

10 Farmers participated
5 Number of agricultural educator or service providers reached through education and outreach activities
Education/outreach description:

Outreach to the general public included:

An article/video was developed for this project through the help of Rutgers University media relations This video/article has greatly promoted this project and the hop testing services, and thus helped to gain interest and support from hop growers in the region. This information will be added into a unique portal within the newly revamped New Use Agriculture & Natural Plant Products program web-site (

In addition several other articles were published in newspapers and magazines.

Each year of the project (2015 and 2016), a twilight meeting was held at the demonstration hopyard to discuss lab results, and cultural/maintenance information about the hopyard. Handouts were distributed at each meeting. hopstwilightmeeting_2015_handout

The demonstration plot was also displayed at the Rutgers University Tomato Tasting/Open house at the Snyder Research Farm in Pittstown, NJ.  The open house also included demonstrations of distillation of hop oil, and a display of the different cones from each variety included in the study.

Posters outlining the project and results were displayed at several conferences including the New Jersey Agricultural Convention (this conference also served as a means to promote hop testing services to current and future hop growers), Northeast American Society of Horticultural Sciences Meeting in 2016 and 2017, and the 3rd and 4th Aroma and Fragrance Symposium 2017. NEASHS_2016_Hopsposter_Final-to-submit NEASHS_2017_HopsPoster_MM NJ_VGA_-Hops-Meeting_Poster-Feb-2017

Through the assistance of this grant we were able to send a participant in this grant project (Megan Muehlbauer) to the 2017 UVM Hop Conference, to present the results of the work that has been done to growers and clientele throughout the Northeastern United States. MMuehlbauer_HandoutforUVMHopConference UVM_Hops_Conference_Research-Updates-from-Rutgers-University



Learning Outcomes

5 Farmers reported changes in knowledge, attitudes, skills and/or awareness as a result of their participation
Key areas in which farmers reported changes in knowledge, attitude, skills and/or awareness:

Choice of hop varieties to grow in the Mid-Atlantic USA, importance of quality testing of hops, disease and insect management methods of hops, costs of establishment of hopyards, creating a network between hop growers and brewers in the Mid-Atlantic

Project Outcomes

5 Farmers changed or adopted a practice
Project outcomes:

Throughout the duration of this project we collaborated with both farmers that currently grow hops and those farmers interested in establishing hopyards in the future.  Thus, this project had two major impacts.  The first was through the use of the demonstration plot, we were able to provide a hands on introduction for new farmers into the costs, infrastructure and maintenance required to establish this specialty crop.  While this project was not designed to test the economic feasibility of establishing commercial hops, the demonstration and project clearly illustrated to potential growers the complexity and costs in getting started in production and the need for drying and post harvest handling systems, and the farmers had a first hand opportunity to see the hopyard and better understand the infrastructure needed and financial capitol required as well as the risks associated with this new crop relative to insect and disease pressures. The hopyard was also used as a meeting place for established and new growers and brewers to discuss the potential markets this crop could be sold to.

The impact on established growers (Plantings at most 3 years old) was significant albeit slightly different.  Many had only sold small amounts of cones, or not sold any product yet at all and not all growers understood the importance of testing bittering acid and aroma content, or knew where to find the service. Through this project we were able to draw awareness to the standards that must be met by the crop to allow the grower to garner the highest market price.  In addition, this service helps New Jersey and Mid-Atlantic hop growers develop a reputation for growing consistently high quality hops.


Assessment of Project Approach and Areas of Further Study:

The greatest successes of this project were met through the dissemination of results and outreach to growers through a number of media sources, twilight meetings and scientific meetings and field site demonstration and use of science to address the critical questions of defining and testing quality of their harvested cones.  This outreach helped draw awareness to some of the obstacles that are often encountered when establishing this high value, high intensity crop.

Our primary weakness was not being able to develop as much of an interest as we had initially hoped from brewers in purchasing local hops. However, this project helps lend support to growers as they continue to grow hops with higher yields using better management practices.  As this improvement occurs we will continue to provide analytical support to continue to guide growers in producing a high quality product that will garner greater interest from brewers.

The demonstration plot is in its third year of production and it looks to be at maximum production this fall.   Thus, yields and diseases will continue to be monitored for the foreseeable future during the post SARE grant period.  Through the support of this grant we have also been able to establish a testing service for bittering acids and for chemically profiling the aroma of the hops, that will be continued due to increasing demand from both growers and brewers. 

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.