Thursday, August 26, 2010

An Indie Hops Exclusive

The History Of CTZ: The Pursuit of Hop Patent Profit

By Al Haunold, Ph.D

The most widely grown private hop variety, or shall I say varieties -- "CTZ" (Columbia, Tomahawk and Zeus), which industry insiders believe are actually one and the same, and the trade often designates as CTZ, were developed by Charles E. (Chuck) Zimmermann, formerly a USDA hop research scientist stationed in Prosser, Washington.

When Zimmermann resigned his position in about 1979, there was nobody to run the USDA/Prosser hop program. The primary repository for hop germplasm is located at the USDA Hop Program in Corvallis, Oregon, but the USDA kept a back-up collection in Prosser.

Zimmermann, who once was an important part of our USDA team in Corvallis, lived on a small acreage outside of Prosser. In his own words:“ I feared that this valuable material would be lost when I resigned to join private industry, since nobody was there to look it over, except an entomologist, Dr. O'Bannon, who had just been transferred from Florida and knew nothing about hops.”

Because of this purported fear, Zimmermann moved a large part of what he considered the “most valuable breeding material” to his personal location, where of course only he had access. After 1979, Zimmermann quit the USDA and entered the private sector as a hop breeder.

From Zimmermann’s collection, some of the USDA breeding material found its way to a commercial location. USDA hop germplasm made its way to Humulus Hop Trade Corp, owned by Segal Hop Co., and later to Hop Union, where Zimmermann continued his private breeding efforts. I’m fairly certain that his private efforts involved the use of USDA hop germplasm which had not been publically released. I don’t have any knowledge that Chuck sought permission to use the USDA generated germplasm. Was it “borrowed”? Perhaps, but I don’t know for sure.

Zimmermann and I always remained friendly. But I asked Chuck repeatedly, when the topic of patenting Columbus and / or Tomahawk came up, to tell me the pedigree of this “new” hop. He always refused to tell me, which I thought was odd, since as USDA Hop Scientists we had a history of collaborating and sharing.

Patenting did not become the rage until the laws were changed in the mid-1980s which made it easier to obtain a patent on a plant. Prior to that, before there was any serious thought about patenting, Zimmermann had already left Hop Union to join another hop trading company. Zimmermann’s successor at Hop Union (Dr. Greg Lewis), to my knowledge, led the charge to apply for a patent for the hop now known as Columbus.

Zimmermann, who had done substantial work on Columbus as a USDA scientist and then later for Hop Union, but who was now working for a competitor, objected.

On one occasion, Dr. Lewis phoned me about their high-alpha hop strain [Columbus] that he inherited from Zimmermann. He was excited that this hop had superior yield potential and good alpha values, but its storage stability was a bit weak. He told me he wanted to patent it.

Since I had already released a public hop aroma variety called “Columbia” (the half-sister of Willamette), he wanted to know whether I objected to Hop Union naming the new super-alpha hop Columbus. I told him I did not object. He predicted it would be a very valuable and popular high alpha variety. Of course he was right about that.

I asked Dr. Lewis about the pedigree of Columbus. He refused to give it to me, just as Zimmermann did. Perhaps he did not even know it himself. I always found this disturbing. I worked for the people. I wasn’t a threat to his company’s lock on the variety. It drove home to me how the times were changing. What I did for the public, they wanted to do for themselves. What I tried to do for all hop farmers, they wanted to restrict to just a select few who were tied in to the merchant. And it’s always struck me as dangerous when a private breeder can get access to USDA germplasm before it’s been released to the public. That smacks of an insider job.

When the “new” super-alpha hop Zeus came along a few years later, propagated by S,S. Steiner Inc., I again asked about the pedigree. No information was provided, except that I was told it was similar to Columbus but with “even higher yield potential.” It is now widely believed that Zeus is very similar if not identical to Columbus/Tomahawk, the latter two having been publicly acknowledged as being identical.

When Zimmermann's health started to decline (Alzheimers, Parkinsons) I asked Ralph Olson, who originally had also worked at Hop Union, to contact Zimmermann about the Columbus/Tomahawk pedigree. He never got it or if he did, he never told me about it.

Hop Union was later bought out by Haas-Barth Inc, and Olson purchased the hop package trade (a Hop Union subsidiary) which Haas-Barth at the time had no interest in..

Sadly, Zimmermann passed away over a year ago and took the pedigree knowledge with him to his grave.

We have a pretty good idea of the genetic background of CTZ. It most likely came from a USDA hop germplasm line that had Brewer's Gold as one of its main components. Most likely it was not just Brewer's Gold, but one of the breeding lines that I had sent to Prosser for evaluation under local conditions while Zimmermann was still working there. I sent it up there for evaluation, not so it could be taken by a private breeder for use in obtaining a patent.

Sharing is supposed to be a two-way street. Everything changed when the patent laws made it easier for private breeders to corner the market on a new variety, even though the ‘new’ variety likely was built on a foundation of USDA created germplasm, in this case, germplasm which hadn’t even been publicly released.

So, there you have it.

Al Haunold
HopTalk with Al Haunold, Part XI

Freedom Hops: The Case for Public-Private Breeding Partnerships

Those who know me understand that I tend to fixate. I get the sandy grain of an idea, apply loads of constant pressure (with maximum compression around 3 in the morning.) and either a blood vessel bursts or out pops a pearl.

Here’s my latest pearl in process: the need for public-private hop breeding partnerships.

Here’s what started the itch. I was perusing the Strategic Plan of the Hop Research Council (1998, updated in 2007). By way of background, the HRC consists of a few larger brewers and all the usual merchants in Yakima. These are the insiders who have a tremendous influence on the direction of how public research dollars are spent. They also assess themselves certain fees and make additional money from HRC available through research grants.

Now, everybody knows that I think the world of Dr. Al Haunold, an extraordinary public servant I’ve heralded on this blog as “the People’s Hopmeister.” After escaping the Nazi War Machine and emigrating to the US, eventually my Austria-born mentor came to work at the USDA in Corvallis where from 1965 to 1996 he took the lead in releasing to the public over 20 new hop varieties.

Twenty! For Free! Al didn’t patent those inventions. He never saw a dime from any royalties because there were no royalties – not then, not now. Neither did Uncle Sam, nor anyone else on Al’s team of public breeders. Anybody can get access to rhizomes for hall-of-fame US varieties like Cascades, Willamette, Nugget, Liberty, and others – all the hopwork of our Nation’s No. 1 Hopmeister. Anyone can get ‘em, and anybody can grow ‘em.

Al retired in the late 1990s but his final collaborations were not released until the early 2000s, to wit: Newport and Mt. Rainier (both crosses made by Al in 1994), Horizon (cross made by Al in 1970), and the low-alpha Teamaker. By the way, Teamaker’s roots go all the way back to 1970. The brewers were not keen on it because it contained virtually no alpha acids. But his technicians loved it for brewing hop tea.

Since then – the early 2000s -- not a single variety has been released. What happened? Did the USDA lose its edge? Did they surrender? Or did they just in fine George W. Bush fashion hand over the keys to the candy store to private industry?

To answer that, let’s go back to that HRC “strategy” statement that has so jarred me – a statement which in truth prompted me to get into the game and to sponsor an aroma hop breeding program at Oregon State University.

Here it is, verbatim, from the HRC strategic plan (click here to read the entire text).

"While varietal development is a critical requirement for the continued success of USA hop growers, there is some concern that public breeding programs should not be involved in the development and release of varieties."

Huh? What’s so egregious about public servants serving the public? Who voiced this "concern"? Private breeders who saw an opportunity to fatten up with their snoots in the public’s trough? I asked Al whether there was any fuss about him taking his work too seriously, that is, depriving private breeders of their chance to make a buck on the public’s dime.

Al shrugged off the strange insinuation. "No, I wasn’t aware of any concerns. We didn’t start seeing any private breeders in the US until the mid 1980s when the laws for patenting agricultural products became more lenient. Before then, I actively worked with brewers, farmers and merchants, and we all got alone fine." With stellar results.

The HRC statement continues:

"Several private breeding programs actively work towards developing and releasing public and proprietary varieties grown with the support of a marketing system that helps growers sell their product on the world market." (Italics added).

Private breeders release “public” varieties? Well, that’s a new one. Al just had to laugh. “That’s an oxymoron. A private company can’t make a public release. I don’t know what they’re talking about.” Aside from this nonsense, the meaning is clear: the merchant-big grower-breeder industrial complex has set its sights on controlling the world market. That hop hegemony begins with patenting varieties and granting licenses to selected growers. An excellent strategy for controlling the price and supply of US hops.

It gets better:

“In almost all other crops, public breeding programs no longer serve as the major developer of varieties but do serve as developers of germplasm containing a specific trait… Germplasm developed by public programs is then utilized by private breeders for use in the development of superior varieties – the better the germplasm, the better the varieties that are ultimately made.”

Whoa doggies! First, the phony argument that “everybody’s doing it.” Second, no attempt to proffer evidence that the public is hurt by an aggressive, efficient and amazingly productive public breeding program. Third, the cavalier way in which the privatizers skip over any ethical issues and swinishly assert that the fruits of the public’s labors is their god-given birthright.

“I disagree,” Al offered modestly. “If the public program develops the tools that help us breed superior varieties, then the public should continue to be involved in bringing new varieties to market. In fact it’s more efficient, as the tool makers generally know best how to use those tools in the field.”

What does this mean for Al’s legacy of public service? “Well,” Al pondered, “it’s appears to have been ruined by the pursuit of profit. The private breeders smelled the money. They want the public to subsidize the creation of the tools – the germplasm, which can select for higher yields, disease resistance, etc – but not share anything in return. They want to restrict access by farmers. That goes against everything I worked for.”

The privatization model kicked in about the time Al retired (nice send off, boys!). How many aroma varieties have sprouted since then? Amarillo? Well, that’s an aroma, but it wasn’t the result of a private breeding program—the Gamaches found it on their farms and trademarked it, which means only they or their chosen few can grow it. Ahtanum? It’s relatively recent, but we don’t know much about its parentage. Citra is a recent privately developed hop, and by all accounts it’s a home run. But we don’t know much about where the germplasm came from. Was publicly owned germplasm exploited? If so, did the patent owner agree to share any royalties with the public?

And that’s the point. There is absolutely nothing wrong with private breeding. It should be encouraged. It’s risky. It’s expensive. It’s time consuming (8 – 12 years on average). As long as there is robust access to public varieties, the profit margin on any new variety is a matter of speculation. And any breeding mission will necessarily involve brewer feedback, just as Citra did with Sierra Nevada and Deschutes, to name a few.

The wicket gets sticky when private breeders utilize public germplasm, develop a “new” variety and then attempt to patent it for their own personal gain without sharing the fruits. Since patent applicants generally insist on keeping secret their formulas, recipes and designs, they jealously guard the pedigree of their plants like the proverbial rich ugly old maid and her silver spoons.

How are competitors going to know what’s off limits? And how does permanently restricting access to varieties by farmers, growers and other merchants help grow the craft beer industry anyway? And think of the potential for corporate espionage: it’s not inconceivable that breeders will raid USDA germplasm depositories before the cell-lines are publically released. (See the History of CTZ, here.)

That’s one big reason why Indie Hops funded the aroma hops breeding program at OSU. Public hop breeding, especially of aroma varieties, had essentially died not too long after Al retired. Our goal has been to empower OSU to invent, invent, invent. With inventing comes ownership. With ownership comes the right to impose reasonable conditions. With conditions comes the potential for royalties. With royalties comes a predictable revenue stream, a big chunk of which can be re-invested back into a public-private program.

The death of public hop breeding programs, we believe, is not only a shame, it’s a punch in the stomach to the work and legacy of The People’s Hopmeister, Al Haunold. Indie Hops stepped in after InBev/AB pulled out to fund a first-ever aroma hops breeding program in large part to continue Al’s pursuit of hops.

Does this mean we believe we are entitled to complete ownership of any new hop “invention?” Absolutely not. We believe in sharing. We look forward to executing on a public-private model that exacts sweat, skill, equity and labor from each stakeholder and commensurately rewards them while also serving the hop growing and hop-loving public.

Roger Worthington

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Interview with Hop-Happy Hipster Kevin Buckley, Master Brewer for BackStreet Brewery

The only educated man is a self-educated man.” Mark Twain

VISTA, CA. Kevin Buckley creates beers like a chef cooks up dazzlingly delicious entrees. He borrows the best traditions from the masters before him, but now and then, when the spirit moves, he adds a little something special of his own. In his words, it’s all about associating the brewer’s personality with his beers.

Kevin’s a likeable, knowledgeable, self-taught sort of hipster (yes, his head’s adorned with the usual pins, spikes and rings). But he’s not exactly an easy going surfer dude. He leans more towards the mindset of the perfectionist, with a readiness to make do with the ingredients and equipment in front of him.

At the tender age of 28, Kevin’s the master brewer of Back Street Brewery in Vista, California. His training was, like so many craft prodigies, far from typical. He didn’t learn the brewing arts at famed Siebel Academy, but he did toil a few years at a brewery in Iowa under two Siebel grads. “I just read their books and manuals on my own,” he said with the satisfied grin of an artisan jack-of-all-trades.

Kevin’s been brewing for Back Street since April. When he arrived in April, Back Street had about four in-house brewed beers on tap. Today, Back Street offers between 8 and 10 taps of it’s own hopped creations.

Vista is in North County, near Stone Brewing, Green Flash and Lost Abbey, all progenitors of big bold beers. Not surprisingly, when Kevin took the job after a stint at Alpine Beer Company, Kevin’s first order of business was to bring home an Imperial IPA, the signature bourbonesque brew of San Diego (by the way, Kevin is an avowed fan of bourbon).

Kevin, who grew up wanting to be a chef, loves hops the way a pastry chef loves sugar. He uses lots of hops – in fact, ton’s of them. He brews using a vintage, 1990-ish Bohemian 21 BBL kettle and a series of 15 bbl capacity fermentation tanks. For his Rydin’ Dirty Rye IPA, he uses about 3 pounds of hop pellets per barrel. For his Ali Rae Imperial IPA, he uses a whopping 5.5 pounds per barrel! My mouth waters at the thought. Ok, I admit it’s watering partially because both of those weighty concoctions showcase Indie Hops’ Cascade and Centennial pellets, and heavens they’re tasty!

Since his arrival at Backstreet only 6 months ago, Kevin has doubled the output from around 250 barrels per year to a pace that will generate about 550 barrels per year. He does it his way: no assistants, not much mentoring, and very little oversight. He doesn’t have a filter or hop back, so he improvises. He’s a quick study with a brain like a sponge, eyes like a hawk and ears like a cat. He’s confident, but far from cocky. He’s humble, but clearly unafraid to push the envelope.

I caught up with Kevin at Back Street the other day. He’s been buying a fair amount of our hops and I wanted his feedback.

RGW: Tell us about your experience with using Indie Hops pellets for dry hopping.

KB: I heard about your coarse design and wanted to check it out. When I opened the foil, I sensed right away a difference. Your hops were thicker and oilier. They looked greener and fresher. It was always a mystery to me why Type 90 pellets were so fine and tiny – they just tended to sink to the bottom and sit there. Yours didn’t quickly settle, they sort of bloomed, like you’d expect of a flower.

RGW: What about the aroma?

KB: Your Cascades have that quintessential floral, grapefruity aroma. When I brewed with your Cascade whole leaf hops, the brew house filled with that special aroma, the way a kitchen fills with that smell of homemade cookies in the oven.

RGW: How did you add the pellets to your tank? Did you use a bag or drop ‘em right in.

KB: I use a small muslin bag when I pull off casks. But for dry hopping, I just poured them from the top. Your pellets are slightly bigger than average, so I rigged up a White Labs’ Yeast jug, which has a 2 inch diameter pour spout which matches up with the portal on the roof of our tank. Just weighed out what I needed and poured ‘em right in.

RGW: Do you do anything to recirculate or re-entrain the hop mash after it has settled?

KB: I usually ferment for about a week and dry hop for two. Every few days dry hopping I would rouse or blast CO2 for a few seconds through the bottom. I’m mindful that CO2 may impact the aromatics of the hop oils but I haven’t detected any off flavors. On balance, between a pump and the CO2 to rouse, it’s more efficient for me in terms of labor and sanitation to rouse the tanks every 2-3 days, so you get that contact with the hop plant surface area. Sort of like a tea bag: you want to let it steep but then punch it a few times to draw out as much oil and flavor as you can.

RGW: Any drainage issues?

KB: Nope. I just draw out the hop sediment and divert it to the drain into the public sewer. It’s not a problem, although the drain screen wasn’t exactly designed for a thick mash of hop sludge.

RGW: So what are you looking for from your hop suppliers?

KB: Two things: an open line of communication and dedication to quality. Look, I know we’re not a huge account. That’s why we need quality hops, so we can attract more customers. When I have a question, or an issue, I’d like for my supplier to listen. For example, at a different brewery, when I opened up the bags, I had to pre-sift the whole hops for sticks, stones, stems, wires and debris. In fact we thought about collecting all the junk in a bucket, weighing it, and asking for a refund!

Another example: with our Amarillos, we were getting a steady stream of seeds. The seeds were clogging up the screen filter in our heat exchanger. We need hops that are as seed-free as possible. They can clog, but the tannins can also deliver funky off-flavors.

In any case, the attitude from our supplier was dismissive. Yeah, I know, we’re not a huge brewer, but I don’t get it. If I brew a sucky beer, I lose business and they lose another customer purchasing their hops.

I’m not a big fan of the Starbucks, ‘standardized mediocrity’ model. Craft brewers need a supplier who will charge a fair price – not $21 a pound for Cascades! And don’t get me started about storage fees. We need a hop supplier who focuses on flavor, aroma and oil. I think it’s great that Indie Hops has come along to help fill this niche.

RGW: Well, thank you sir. What do you think Indie Hops could do better in terms of its pellet design?

KB: Well, every brew system is slightly different. The bigger the tank, the more challenging it is to simply drop pellets through the roof for dry hopping. We don’t have a hop back or filter, so I’m sure those might present challenges if you want to design an even bigger diameter pellet. Overall, I like the idea of preserving as much of the lupulin as you can. It’s sort of like what the doctors tell you about vitamins: it’s better to get your Vitamin C from real fruits and veggies than relying on a pulverized pill.

RGW: What do you like most about brewing?

KB: The feedback. Nothing sweeter than the smile on a satisfied customer. That smile doesn’t come from magic. A lot goes into making a beer special: quality ingredients, perspiration, inspiration and a bit of luck. It’s great to get paid for doing what I enjoy. I love being a part of the craft beer movement, a competitive but incredibly cooperative industry. I suppose like any brewer I want to earn the respect of my fellow brewers and one day, like Vinnie, or Jim Koch, or Sam Calgione or Ken Grossman, maybe Kevin Buckley will have his line of signature beers.

At about that time – around noonish -- an elderly couple ambled in and took a seat on the bar. The wife robustly ordered an IPA, offering: “We were just up in Mammoth at the Bluesapoolooza. We tried your beer up there, loved it and decided to track you down.” This is how the revolution is won, one satisfied customer at a time.

Roger Worthington

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Val Peacock Drops Mushroom Cloud of Light and Reason: Crafties, Step Up and Take Action!

Listen up Crafties. Check out the latest issue of The New Brewer. The venerable Val Peacock, Phd, the former hopmeister for Anheuser-Busch, has penned a prophetic essay that you just have to read, digest, ponder and act on.

Peacock makes the following points, which are worth bulleting:
  • Since Inbev bought out Bud in 2008, there’s been a huge void in enforcing quality standards for aroma hops. Or, as IH has been arguing, the Crafties can no longer “draft” off the Big Boys, and to prosper they must take charge in monitoring farm practices, breeding, yields, pest/disease problems, etc.

  • There’s a clear and present danger that the Industrial’s obsession with pre-isomerized and downstream hop products will further erode the quality of domestic production of aroma hops. Or, as IH has inveighed, the Crafties need to invest in the farmers, breeders and merchant who serve their needs, exclusively.

  • Aroma and super alpha hops mature differently, and thus farmers need to harvest them when they are ripe and ready, not when it’s economically expedient. Exactly, that’s why Indie Hops has financed a breeding program at OSU that includes a pilot study that is evaluating the optimal date for harvesting big oily aroma hops.

  • The shift towards super alphas will undermine the diversity, yields and quality of US aroma hops, as well as the survival of many aroma hop farmers, who are now selling hops below the cost of production. Exactly. That’s why IH is investing in select, heritage hop farmers in the optimal terroir for aroma hops, the Willamette Valley. IH works with hop farmers who are committed to investing in quality.

  • Dry-hop lovin’ Crafties crave flavor, but in the absence of AB’s field program, which subsidized aroma quality production, Crafties can expect a decline in to-die-for aromas and flavors. Yes. That’s why Indie Hops has financed a $1 million aroma hop breeding program. That’s why we’ve focused 100% on growing aroma and dual purpose hops.

  • Crafties need to visit the hop farms where their hops are being grown. They need to take an interest in the cleanliness of the fields and equipment, the drying of hops, optimal harvest dates, pest infestations, etc. Can I get an Amen! That’s why IH has been inviting Crafties to come visit the yards of our farm partners. We want you to see, feel, smell and enjoy our bounty. But we also invite you to visit the nearby plant where your hops will be lightly processed, packaged and stored. Aroma hops need TLC in the fields and in the mill and we want you to hold us to the highest standard!

US hop farmers “want to do everything they can to establish long term mutually beneficial relationships with brewers, and they view craft brewers as the future.” Free at last! IH has been sermonizing from the get go that the craft revolution is big and strong enough to support its own network of farmers, breeders and processors who are committed to putting hand-crafted quality over big box quantity.

And, finally, this little mushroom cloud of bright light and awesome reason, which I just have to quote in full:

"Last but not least, don’t expect to buy your hops on the spot market every year below the cost of production and still get good quality, or for that matter, delivery of your hops in short years. This will cost you even more in the long run than paying a sustainable price, and sends a signal to growers that you don't care about investing in hop quality! If the domestic aroma market becomes commoditized as the alpha market, quality will deteriorate." (emphasis added)

Prophetic. Beautiful. Concise. Illuminating. Well written Val. We appreciate the validation. Now let’s take action. Come visit the farms where our diverse variety of non-proprietary hops are being grown. Come watch your fresh hops being converted to plump green pellets at our nearby mill in Hubbard. And we’d be happy to escort you down to Corvallis to visit our aroma hop breeding program lab and fields at OSU.

Roger Worthington

Monday, August 9, 2010

Indie Hops’ Open House: A Celebration to Usher in the 2010 Harvest

HUBBARD, OR. In the heart of Oregon’s hop country, Indie Hops unveiled its clean, green pellet mill to over 100 craft brewers, hop farmers, OSU and WSU ag scientists and even a few of our competitors last Friday. After plying our guests with BBQ and beers, we cranked up the space age mill and it didn’t blow.

It did, however, to the delight of all, convert a bale of Cascade hops into big, fat, oily Type 90 pellets. As one brewer commented, “They kept crowing about their pellet die temp being under 110F and they delivered. We gunned their pellets at 106F.”

Special guest Congressman Peter DeFazio (D-Or), himself an avid home brewer, delivered a rousing speech to the faithful in which he lauded craft brewing as “a bright spot in an otherwise gloomy economy.” Rep. DeFazio made no bones about it: he’s proud to help nurture a growing industry that generates thousands of jobs at a time when the largest brewer in the US is foreign-owned (InBev/Bud).

It’s well known that Oregonians tend to support their own. Almost 40% of the beer brewed in Oregon is consumed within the state – a testament to brand loyalty as well as customer sophistication. And small in-state breweries own about 11% of the market share in Oregon, the highest in the US.

As Jim noted in his opening remarks to the faithful, "Oregon has it all. We’ve got the soil, water and climate. We’ve got some of the best brewers, the best hop farmers, and the smartest hop scientists in the world. And now Oregon has its own hop processor and we pledge to rise to the same standard of excellence that you have set."

Of course, even the best aroma hops terroir has it’s hiccups. This season was a wet one in the Willamette Valley. The rainy Spring finally did surrender to the sunny skies of Summer, but only recently. (By the way, aroma hops thrive in cooler weather). Insect pressure has been light. Mildew was a potential threat but it stayed manageable. Aphids never posed a serious threat and, thanks to cooler temperatures, the spider mites were kept at bay. The cooler summer has allowed our beloved cones to achieve their iconic plumpness.

The scuttlebutt among the Oregon farmers is that, thanks to the surge in sunshine, we should have a decent – but not banner --harvest, although for certain cultivars it might be delayed about a week. The following is a snapshot of the anticipated harvest for select varieties:

US Tettanger -- August 16-18th
Centennials -- August 18-20th
Willamettes -- August 23ish
Sterling -- September 3-6.
Cascade -- September 6-8th.
Mt. Hood -- 1st week September

As the venerable Val Peacock, Ph.D, recently advised in The New Brewer (July/Aug 2010), brewers are advised to visit the farms from which they purchase their hops. We agree – and we’ll add to that sage advice our own admonition that you ought to get to know your pellet millers and walk their shop. At Indie Hops, we’d be happy to arrange for you to visit the Goschie and Coleman hopyards.

Check for yourself the quality of the hops, the cleanliness of the farms and machinery, the timing of the harvest, the status of any mildew or pest problems, and the operation of the drying rooms. After a tour of the hopyards, we’d be pleased to escort you over to our nearby plant and perhaps run a few bales for you. We’ll provide the earplugs, but even though we tend to get carried away with our pellet design and quality, we’ll ask in advance that you not insert them until we flip the switch.

Thanks to everybody for joining us in the celebration of Oregon’s first pellet mill. We’re very pleased to join the craft beer revolution and we appreciate your support and feedback. Special thanks to Bridgeport, Lucky Labrador and Full Sail for bringing the beer.

Roger Worthington