- Agronomic: hops
- Crop Production: food product quality/safety
- Education and Training: on-farm/ranch research
Due to the number of exceptional craft breweries in our region, farmers continue to plant acres of hops. Over the past several seasons, hop growers have become frustrated and brewers disappointed as hop yards are harvested too early. More often than ever, brewers and their consumers value aromatics over bittering flavors. We know that the bitter hop resins develop before aromatic qualities in hop cones. Northeastern growers are currently harvesting for bittering attributes of hops rather than waiting for aromatic essential oils to develop. It is clear that hop harvest dates developed for other production regions are not appropriately timed for our climate.
The goal of this project is to improve the quality of hops grown by local farms and bought by local brewers. A brewer survey early in the project will help us to identify which compounds/aromas brewers are most interested in. Then, on three farms (two in NY, one in VT) we will collect hop cones for full chemical analysis on three different dates as they mature in the field during both 2018 and 2019 harvest seasons. With three farm and three brewer collaborators, we believe that this project will strengthen relationships between northeast hop growers and craft brewers. We will hold three grower-brewer sensory evaluation workshops where hops harvested on different dates are ranked. Without regional, scientifically-based knowledge of when hops reach the maturity that craft brewers desire, growers will be left with off-flavored hops that have no sustainable, local market.
Project objectives from proposal:
Our overarching goal is to improve the quality of hops grown by local farms and bought by local brewers.
Objective 1. Identify and quantify when resin and essential oil compounds develop in Cascade hop cones. Indications of success will include closely matched oil levels to those of other regions, fully developed citrus aroma, and satisfied brewers.
Objective 2. Understand which compounds and the quantity of each that local brewers look for in a lab report when making hop purchase decisions. If successful, growers will know which compounds and what level of each is considered high quality in our region.
Objective 3. Educate growers by disseminating our findings at 3 grower-brewer sensory evaluation events (2 in NY, 1 in VT), 2 annual hop conferences, 2 recorded webinars, and outreach materials printed for events and posted on the UVM Northwest Crops and Soils (NWCS) and Northeast Hops Alliance (NEHA) websites. Pre and post “quizzes” will indicate knowledge learned over the course of this project.