Curious Hop Facts 2017

Every now and again, a thick, oddly-shaped magazine shows up in my mailbox: Hopfen, The German Hop Growers Magazine. The interval between arrivals is long enough (a year?) that I forget the magazine exists until the next one arrives. And yet each time it does, I find myself engrossed by the information within. For example, did you know that Herkules is by far the most-grown hop in Germany, constituting 30% of the entire planted acreage? Nor did I. (Herkules is a high-alpha hop introduced in 2006.) Perle is the second-most grown hop in Germany, but only accounts for half as much acreage.

Other surprising facts:

  • Almost all the hops in Germany are grown in the Hallertau region. The other four regions collectively account for just 17% of total acreage.
  • Just 3.7% of German hop acreage is devoted to Hallertau Mittlefrüh, arguably the most exalted hop on the planet and certainly Germany's most famous.
  • The new aroma varieties Americans are so familiar with (Mandarina Bavaria, Hallertauer Blanc, Huell Melon) account for just 3.2% of planted acreage.
  • In Germany, hops have a tripartite division, into bittering, aroma, and flavor hops. The three mentioned in the previous bullet are all categorized as flavor varieties. Perle, Mittlefrüh, and Tradition are considered aroma, and alpha-bruisers like Herkules, Magnum, and Nugget are bittering varieties.
  • There are 280 acres of Amarillo (!?!), substantially more acreage than Hallertau Blanc or Huell Melon. Again: ???
  • There are 1132 hop farms in Germany.

Each issue of Hopfen seems to include a technical paper, and in this issue we have one on trials to develop a new hybrid. It's all interesting, and I wish I could send you a link (this seems to be as close as you'll get). One sentence from the paper leaped off the page, though, which I submit for your consideration. In comparing the hybrids in sensory panels:

The fact that the beers brewed with the classic aroma hops came across as having more body can be put down to the significantly higher polyphenol content thanks to the higher hop dosages.

I suspect Stan Hieronymus could give us more background here, but that certainly made me consider the way hops may be affecting the full mouthfeel of hazy IPAs.

United States

Meanwhile, hop growers of America have released their own annual report, and it is full of similarly-tasty statistics. A few choice nuggets:

  • Total non-Northwest acreage has crept up to 4.5% of the total. Michigan (810), New York (400 acres), and Wisconsin (297) are non-Northwest leaders.
  • The most popular hops are: 1) Cascade, 2) Centennial, 3) Citra, 4) Simcoe, 5) Zeus, 6) Mosaic, and 7) Chinook, basically unchanged over the past three years.
  • By pounds produced, Idaho is now the second-largest hop state after Washington, though Oregon has nearly a thousand more acres planted.
  • The top hop by state: Zeus in Idaho, Nugget in Oregon (Cascade is a very close second), and Cascade in Washington (with Centennial close behind).
  • Chinook, a hop introduced in 1985, was one of the biggest gainers last year, which strikes me as really odd. Theories?
  • There wasn't nearly as much variety-by-variety change as there has been in recent years. Interestingly, though, Mosaic acreage dropped in Washington in 2017.

Finally, the biggest trend in American hops continued last year, as aroma hops overwhelmingly dominated bittering hops in terms of overall production. (Americans need to start tracking "flavor hops," though, amirite?)

Jeff Alworth4 Comments