Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Organic Hop Shuffle

By now I’m sure you’ve heard about changes afoot in the rules regarding the use of hops in certified organic beer. A committee that oversees such things recently voted 6-0 in favor of recommending the removal of hops from the list of organic-exempt ingredients. If adopted, and it likely will be, the rule would not take effect until January 1, 2013.

What does this mean? It means that farmers have two seasons within which to begin planting organic crops. It also means that brewers who wish to brew organic beers have time to both contract with growers for particular varieties and, if necessary, begin contemplating suitable substitutions.

The Fed Panel acknowledged that the transition wouldn’t be easy as pie. That’s why it didn’t recommend that the rule change be enacted immediately. In setting forth their “roadmap” for a smooth transition, the panel envisioned that if a brewer had a need for a variety that was not commercially available, it could petition to put that specific cultivar on the organic-exempts ingredients list.

The Panel made it clear that brewers need to establish (if they haven’t already) a solid relationship with their local accrediting agency on issues relating to the form, quality, and content of available varieties. Likewise, growers and merchants will need to educate their local ACA on the varieties they have available, and be prepared to address form, quality and quantity issues.

If you’re already set with organic hops, the rule changes won’t affect you that much, aside from helping bring the price down by encouraging more US hop farmers and merchants to go organic. If you’re currently sporting the USDA organics label, but not using organically grown hops, the change may strike you as an irksome roadblock that forces you to weigh the merits of plotting a new, more authentic course or scrapping the organics trip altogether.

At Indie Hops, we’re here to help you get you on the right track. Since 2009, we have committed to growing 20 acres of organic hops at Goschie Farms. We’ve got about 11 acres in the ground (9.4 acres of Cascade and 1.4 acres of Centennial) and our first certified organic crop will be available in 2012. We’re planning to plant the remaining 10 acres this Spring.

If you’re currently using Cascade or Centennial, or wish to substitute them in, we’d of course love to be your supplier. If you prefer other varieties, please let us know. Your feedback will help us decide what varieties to plant this Spring.

We have a flexible, sustainable and transparent pricing program we’d like to discuss with you. Our goal is to get it right at the farm level so that eventually the yields will go up and the prices will come down, and you’ll be motivated to go full green.

As a wiser man once said: Change is real and reality changes. We’re here to help you adjust to a new and we hope better reality.

Roger, Jim and Matt

For more information on the recommended removal of hops from the National List, please click on these articles:

National Organic Standards Board Handling Committee Response to Petition to remove Hops (Humulus luplus) from § 205.606 Revised Committee Decision Discussion. October 8, 2010 (click here)

'Growers near win in battle to mandate organic hops in organic beer' The Portland Oregonian. Click here

Click here to read about Indie Hops Organics Program

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