Establishment and marketing of hops production in the mid-Atlantic

Project Overview

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

Annual Reports

Commodities

  • Agronomic: hops

Practices

  • Crop Production: crop improvement and selection, food product quality/safety, varieties and cultivars
  • Education and Training: demonstration, extension
  • Farm Business Management: feasibility study, value added
  • Sustainable Communities: new business opportunities, partnerships

    Proposal abstract:

    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 new source of income for farmers. Preliminary studies undertaken at Rutgers showed that the Mid-Atlantic zone is conductive 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 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 from proposal:

    The following objectives outline our proposed solution

    1) Perform a survey of Mid-Atlantic (NJ and PA) craft breweries to asses current industry demand, preferences and needs not being fulfilled by current hop sourcing.
    2) Establish a demonstration hopyard plot at the Rutgers Snyder Cooperative Extension Farm in Pittstown, NJ. This plot will serve as a central location for growers to congregate, network and share information. In addition, this plot will also serve as the model hopyard for a short educational film on hops farming to inspire new growers and provide assistance to current growers.
    3) Provide a chemical analysis service to growers throughout the Mid-Atlantic region. A standard workflow and operating procedure will be developed within the Simon lab according to published American Society for Brewing Chemists (ASBC) methods. Analyses will include alpha and beta acid percentages, essential oil yield and composition.
    4) Determine effect and management practices and terroir on key agronomic and chemical hop quality measurements.

    The methods outlined below will address each of our four objectives:

    1) Perform a survey of craft breweries

    A survey of craft breweries (potential total of 309 breweries in the Mid-Atlantic) will be performed with undergraduate and graduate labor. An electronic version of the survey will be distributed to breweries producing the highest volume (barrels of beer/year). Follow ups will be made by phone and surveys sent by mail if necessary.

    Questions on the survey will include:

    1) Which varieties of hops does your brewery use? Approximately what percentage of each variety do you use in your brewery?

    2) Approximately what quantity of pelleted, dry whole cone, wet whole cone hops does your brewery use in one year (kg/year or lbs/year)?

    3) Where does your brewery currently source your hops from? State? Supplier?

    4) Would you be willing to purchase locally grown (Mid-Atlantic region) grown hops at a higher price? If so, what percentage would you be willing to pay above the current standard for aroma and bitter hops (dollars/lb or dollars/kg)?

    5) Would you be willing to pay your current price for locally sourced hops with decreased alpha or beta acid content? If so, what percentage below industry standard would you accept?

    Data will be analyzed to determine significant differences in response and preference within each question. Appropriate statistical methods (eg. hypothesis tests) will be employed based on the type of outcome response and sample size (eg. number of breweries) for each question. Correlations between outcome of response among different questions will be determined when possible and appropriate.

     

    2) Establish a demonstration hopyard

    A .25 acre demonstration plot will be established at the Snyder Extension farm with 20 foot poles.  Rhizomes of 5 varieties will be planted, 10 plants per variety for a total of 50 plants.

    3) Provide a chemical analysis service

    A user-friendly submission form

    To acquire hops samples throughout the region a submission form will be promoted through an NJAES press release and made available for download to growers throughout the region. The submission form will include a concise description of hop cone sampling procedure, which will encourage at least two sample replicates per variety tested. Sampling procedure will be adopted from the ASBC method Hops-1. This will ensure an accurate comparison of data across multiple locations. Growers will be given the option to have a complete analysis performed or individual analyses and be provided the option of mailing a hard copy to the Simon lab as an alternative to email. The submission form will include a few brief questions concerning the farmers soil type, age of hops, harvest/drying method, basic management practices and total hop production acreage. Funds will facilitate initial hops testing to be provided at a promotional, discounted rate to encourage submissions and increase the depth of the mid-atlantic hop grower survey.

    Analysis of hop quality; Bittering acids analysis

    Alpha and beta acids will be 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 will be ground with 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 will be extracted by hydrodistillation and collected using a Clavenger trap apparatus. Essential oil yield will be determined by weighing oils and will be reported as mg oil/g dry cones. Volatile composition will be determined according to the ASBC method (Hops-17). Total volatiles will be separated and quantified using a gas chromatograph (GC) coupled to a flame ionized detector (FID) (Simon lab).

     

    Results of analyses requested by farmers will be returned upon completion and stored in a database (Excel) for data analysis and surveying purposes.

    4) Determine effect of management practices and terroir on key agronomic and chemical hop quality measurements.

    Data will be generated from (i) farmers who agreed to participate in this study (ii) Snyder Cooperative Extension farm. These groups will be closely aligned in terms of varieties, sampling structure and balanced (no missing data points) experimental design, which will allow for a robust statistical comparison between locations and management practices.

    Survivability

    A percentage of bines surviving year one will be recorded at the Snyder Farm only upon harvest at the base.

    Yield

    Wet and dry weight – when attached cones reach approximately 20-25% moisture, the whole bines will be cut at the base and cones harvested manually. One hundred cones will be randomly subsampled per each variety and weighed immediately. This will be repeated for three bines per variety to give mean. Cones will be weighed again at 8% moisture. All cones will then be transferred to a dryer at 120 degrees F and weighed when moisture level has decreased to an appropriate level for processing.

    Cone measurements

    A uniform subsample (Hops-1, ASBC) will be taken per each variety and X cones will be measured for length and width.

    Downy and powdery mildew severity and incidence

    Disease incidence of downy mildew will involve scoring leaves of individual plants for percentage of sporulating (abaxial) leaf area and a mean will be generated per each variety. Shoots and leaves will be evaluated for presence of sporulation and or symptoms and a mean generated per each variety.

    Literature Cited

    USDA-National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS). 2013. Press release: 2013 Hop production up thirteenpercent from last year.

    USDA-National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS). 2014. Hop Acreage Strung for Harvest 2014.

    University of Vermont Extension. 2014. 2013 Organic Hop Variety Trial: Results from year Three.

    http://www.uvm.edu/extension/cropsoil/wp-content/uploads/2013-Hops-Variety-Trial-Year-3.pdf

     

    Project Timetable

    Throughout the entire project timeline video will be taken of the establishment, management, harvest and packaging of the demonstration plot. At the start of this project a Rutgers based website will be developed through which to disseminate information on growing hops in the Mid-Atlantic region to growers. It will also serve as a vehicle to develop contact with Mid-Atlantic growers interested in sending the lab hops plants for analysis (with detailed information on their farm site and harvest/post-harvest methods). The rapid and inexpensive screening service will be used as part of a longer term strategy to provide sustainable support for hop growers after this project would end. The work for this project will be done by two graduate students, undergraduate student labor, and a videographer.

    Year 1 (March 1, 2015- March 1, 2016)

    March 2015- May 2015- Cones from the 2014 harvest will be collected from growers to analyze alpha and beta acids along with oil content.

    March 2015- Survey to brewers (as many as possible of the 309 local brewers) on which varieties they are most interested in sourcing locally.

    April/May 2015- Trellis for demonstration plot will be constructed by a non-university company in collaboration with the Rutgers Snyder Farm staff. Hops rhizomes will be planted shortly after the trellis is constructed.

    May-August 2015- Demonstration plot will be monitored weekly for disease, growth progression etc. Grower plots of collaborators will also be visited to monitor for similar disease issues and growth progression. Establishment of a database of information on Hops growing in NJ.

    August 2015- Harvest will be performed at Snyder Farm plot. At this time samples will be collected from each of the grower plots.

    September 2015-February 2016- Chemical analysis will be performed on all of the samples that were taken. Results will be immediately sent to growers. Data from both the grower surveys and chemical analysis will then be used to write up and distribute a report on year 1 establishment of a hops crop in the Mid-Atlantic region.

    Year 2 (March 2, 2016-February 28, 2017)

    March –September 2016- Demonstration plot will be monitored weekly for disease, growth progression etc. Grower plots of collaborators will also be visited to monitor for similar disease issues and growth progression.

    August 2016- Harvest will be done as was done as was done in August 2015, data on yield and collections of each hops variety will also be obtained in a similar manner at the collaborating farms.

    August 2016- A grower meeting will take place just before harvest to discuss management practices, harvest methods and post-harvest handling. Using the demonstration plot as a hands on example of best practices.

    September 2016-February 2017- Chemical analysis will be performed on all of the samples that were taken. Results will be immediately sent to growers. Data from both the grower surveys and chemical analysis will then be used to write up and distribute a report on year 2 establishment of a hops crop in the Mid-Atlantic region.

    Dissemination of Project Results

    We will use several methods to disseminate our results to Hops growers in the region. A webpage devoted to Hops growing in New Jersey will be established through Rutgers University, as a resource to which growers can use as needed. Aside from recommendations on hop yard set up, varieties, and disease control practices, we will also upload a video of the establishment of the demonstration plot for this project. The video will outline the establishment of the demonstration Hop yard, maintenance throughout the year, harvest techniques, post-harvest handling, and packaging.

                We will also hold at least two grower meeting at the Snyder farm each year centered around the demonstration plot, to address the needs and concerns of growers in the region. We will also use this time to demonstrate management and harvest techniques, and provide preliminary results and observations from our demonstration trial. Additionally we will make ourselves available to participate in other annual commercial grower extension meetings in this region.

                Upon completion of each year of the grant we will develop a fact sheet for growers outlining best management practices, as well as results of our hops chemistry analysis, and provide recommendations for achieving desired quality standards for brewers. This information will also be posted to the webpage devoted to the Hops project.

    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.