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Thursday, April 29, 2010

Oregon Emerging as Premium Hops Producer

John Foyston has a fascinating article in today's Oregonian. It revolves around Indie Hops, a company north of Woodburn that is seeking to become the source of premier hops for craft breweries.
"We decided from the start to scale this to craft breweries and not the industrial brewers. Craft brewing has basically grown up on trickle-down from the mega brewers," such as AB InBev (Budweiser) and SABMiller, he said. "But craft brewers have come into their own."

[T]he Indie Hops business plan ... aims to elevate Oregon's aroma hops to among the best in the world and provide the state with a processing and storage infrastructure that now exists mainly in Yakima.... "Nearly everybody -- hop geneticists, brewers, and even farmers in the Yakima Valley -- confirmed for us that Oregon's Willamette Valley was the best terroir for aroma hops in America," Solberg said of the research he and Worthington undertook on the way to building the only U.S. hop merchant devoted solely to craft brewing and Oregon aroma hops.
One fascinating tidbit from the article: Indie has developed a hop pelletizer that only heats the hops to 110 degrees. Other commercial pelletizers are built for higher volume and heat hops to 130 to 140 degrees as they crush and extrude them. You may be aware of the big debate among breweries about whether pellets are an inferior form of hops. Pellet partisans have always maintained that, since they're just compressed whole hops, they're effectively just the same. Breweries use pellets because they store better and are less bulky for storage and use.

I wasn't aware that the process heated the hops up to 140 degrees, though. That's a big deal. Much of what gives hops their oomph is contained in volatile essential oils. Crushing hops bursts lupulin, exposing these oils to the air; the addition of heat must further drive off these compounds. At 110 degrees, there's probably still some loss, but it would be less severe--especially when you consider how warm it is in a hop dryer anyway.

So, go read the whole thing. As with all Foyston pieces, it's well worth your time.

1 comment:

  1. Good article, but it doesn't tell the whole story. First of all, many commercial pelletizers currently run at ~110 degrees. There are some that still operate at 140, but there are multiple mills in Yakima that are liquid nitrogen cooled. The article makes it sound like Indie Hops is the first and only mill to run at the lower temp. Not the case.

    The tradeoff between mill speed and temp isn't entirely true either. Speed is more a function of plant size than operating temperature.

    Overall it's a good article, but it's not the "whole truth".