Still, these are real numbers. An acre of hop fields produces over 2,000 pounds of hops, so that wee Colorado planting is going to produce around 150,000 pounds of hops. That's not going to go far at Budweiser, but these growers aren't working with In-Bev, they're working with craft brewers:
Hamm said the association is a "loose group" of mostly part-time hop growers who are working toward establishing their own full-fledged operations to supply the state's craft brewers.I'd like to highlight three aspects of this development that strike me as very promising:
Those brewers, like Odell Brewing Co. in Fort Collins, would like to buy as much Colorado-grown hops as possible to support the fledgling industry.
Joe Mohrfeld, Odell's head brewer, said the brewing company has worked with Colorado State University's specialty crops department to obtain hops for its "Hand Picked Pale Ale" and other special seasonal beers.
- Localizing of beer. I have long longed for the return of more traditional modes of brewing, in which local ingredients went into local beer. Until rail, refrigeration, and industrialization (that is, for 98% of brewing history), beer was necessarily local. The beer tasted of the land in which it was produced. Because each agricultural region is unique, different strains will grow better in different places, and the beers will naturally adopt a local flavor.
- Terroir. At some point Stan Hieronymus will complete his book on hops, and I'm hoping my understanding of terroir takes a quantum leap. What I do know is that the hops that grow well in Yakima aren't the same hops that grow well in the Willamette Valley, nor do identical strains produce identical-tasting hops when grown in these two regions. What do Wisconsin Cascades taste like? What about New York Willamettes (a bizarre thing to write). Will we see Sauk Goldings?
- Local businesses. One doesn't want to overstate the wholesomeness of craft brewing on the jobs market. Given the choice, most people would probably rather clean kegs for Budweiser than a seven-barrel craft brewery: the salary and benefits will inevitably be better. But what craft brewing has done is fragment what had become an amazingly clean, streamlined process of producing beer. This gives thousands of entrepreneurs new ways to enter the market. Thanks to craft brewing, we have new distributors, new alehouses, new events coordinators to run all those fests, and now, new hop-growers. (Which includes, lest I fail to mention in, the burgeoning group of organic hop-growers.)