Falconer's Flight and Pellet Blends

Hopunion sent an intriguing email over the transom this week announcing hop pellets made of a proprietary blend of NW hops, named for Oregon brewer Glen Falconer, who died in 2002:
It is with great pleasure that Hopunion LLC announces the release of Falconer’s Flight™, an exclusive proprietary hop blend created to honor and support the legacy of Northwest brewing legend, Glen Hay Falconer.... This novel proprietary pellet blend is comprised of many of the Northwest’s most unique hop varieties and is perfect for any Northwest-style IPA. Each hop has been hand selected for its superior aromatic qualities, imparting distinct tropical, citrus, floral, lemon and grapefruit tones.
A portion of the proceeds go to support the Falconer Foundation, which supports brewers and brewing. That alone should sell a few pounds, but I'm wondering: are breweries going to be interested in blends offered by a hop company? The idea isn't outlandish: Widmer uses their own proprietary blend called "Alchemy." Certain hops can contribute a "house character" to a brewery's beers--I've noticed Rogue is partial to Crystal, while Double Mountain likes Perle, for example. (Those are in addition to the usual C hops, which are ubiquitous.) And when I visited Eugene a few weeks back, Jamie Floyd denounced Columbus--one of my favorite hops--which you apparently won't find in Ninkasi's beer.

So I guess we'll see. If hop companies could come up with the right blends, it might be absolute catnip for beer drinkers. And that could give the idea legs.

Boutique Hops?
All of this reminds me of something else I've been wondering about. Why don't breweries get more involved in the development of propriety hop strains for their own use? Earlier this year, Indie Hops invested a million dollars into OSU's College of Ag Sciences to develop aroma hops. (A portion of this goes to study of essential oils and how they contribute to aroma and flavor, which, shockingly, has never really been studied closely.) Clearly, they think there's some potential there.

But what about breweries? In a densely crowded market of hoppy beers, distinctive flavors give breweries a competitive advantage. The huge variety of hops means it's possible to create novel combinations, but breweries can't invent flavors. Hop scientists have an impressive list of cultivars that aren't commercial strains. It would take years, but breweries could select for various characteristics and engineer a hop that would give a singular flavor to their beers. Seems like Oregon breweries have a real advantage here--researchers, hop farms, all within an hour or two of the kettle.

(Rogue may be embarking on this, or maybe not. They have their own hop fields and their own proprietary hops--"Rebel", "Revolution", "Independent"--but I don't know if these are re-branded extant strains or newer hybrids. Anyone?)
Jeff Alworthhops6 Comments