Saturday, October 1, 2011

Chinooks Return To Oregon

Here’s the deal. Jim likes to catch fish and I like to eat ‘em, especially fish loaded with Omega 3s, like King Salmon, also known as Chinooks.

A few years ago we learned that the endangered Chinook, allowed to fatten up on plankton and moderately free from the threats of hooks, nets and overheated salt water, were predicted to make a record run in Oregon. And come back they did, more than doubling their population.

Jim didn’t go out to the Columbia or Deschutes to rope a “June hog,” but we both took comfort in knowing the mighty Chinook were thriving in the clean cold Columbia, as well as it’s Oregon tributaries.

It wasn't lost on us that meanwhile, in the Willamette Valley, another fatty packed with acid and oil, the Chinook hop,  was nowhere to be seen. Gone. Flushed out. Moved to Washington. We learned that Chinook hadn’t been grown in Oregon for about 20 years, for no particular reason. In our quest to diversify hop crops in Oregon, this glaring absence was simply unacceptable.

We contacted our friends at the Coleman Farms and they said” bring it on.” So in 2010, the same year the Chinook salmon made their triumphant return to Oregon in record numbers, we planted Chinook hops down on the famous "alluvial farm," within casting distance of the Willamette River.

We’re glad we did. Sure, it’s not the easiest hop to grow, as it has only moderate disease resistance to Downy mildew. But the Colemans -- burly, smart and themselves genetically designed it seems to thrive and win in any environment, enjoy a challenge. With about 80 years of hop growing experience in the family, the Colemans were not going to let the threat of mildew deter them, especially in view of the major advances made to combat DM in the past 12 years.

For a baby year harvest, we’re very, very pleased. The yield was just a tad under our projections, but when you consider we just weathered the coldest and wettest spring in Oregon’s recorded history, we’re high-fiving.  Not breaking metatarpels, but slamming the palms with sufficient force to produce an audible "smack." Looking forward, as the Chinooks continue dig in, we’re optimistic about next year’s mature harvest.
Would you look at those side arms! 
A fat, healthy row of Chinook hops, flanked by
hop blood brothers John and Tom Coleman,
down on the Alluvial Farm near
Independence, Oregon (August 2011).
More importantly, the brewers who’ve rubbed and sniffed our 2011 Chinook harvest have been delighted. The Chinook, at around 13.6% alpha acid normally, was once used primarily by industrials, such as Coors, as a bittering hop. Today, this dual purpose Golding/Brewers Gold derivative has also shown value for it’s aroma profile, which registers from herbal to smoky to grapefruity (see Stone’s flagship “Arrogant Bastard,” as an example).

That in mind, we’re not uncomfortable with the alpha acid of our 2011 baby crop, which came in just under 10%. Several brewers have noticed a slightly improved herbal and citrusy aroma than what they’re accustomed to -- they're happy, we're happy. Shortly, we’ll have the numbers on the total oil, which can range anywhere from 1.24 to 2.63 ml/100 g. A rich, resiny hop with an underrated aroma that, we believe, is well suited for both Oregon’s Willamette Valley and the craft brewer’s fermentation tanks.

As the saying goes, the only shot you never make is the one you don’t take. Indie Hops is dedicated to expanding the menu of aroma and dual purpose hops in the Valley, a mission which we hope and believe will help rebuild Oregon’s pre-eminence as a leading supplier of hops while also bolstering new beer flavors for craft brewers.

In the old days, the white water rivers of the Pacific Northwest were so thick with salmon returning home to spawn according to legend you could walk across without getting your feet wet. Next year, we're anglin' for a boomer crop of greenies so big and fat with oil they blot out that famously hot Oregon sun.

Octobert 1, 2011

Who Dat? 
Why, that’s Jim Koch, the irrepressible and boundless craft beer Ubermensch. What’s he doing? Why he’s doing what he does best: inspiring, perspiring and pontificating, while the dangling Chinooks whisper: catch me, if you can.  (Alluvial Farm, August 2011)

There He Is Again! 
Jim Koch and hop enchantress Gayle Goschie, down on the farm, while the Nuggets pour in like the nearby Silver Falls.  Silverton, Or (August 2011).
He’s Everywhere! 
Jim Koch breeding good will with hopmeister Dr. Shaun Townsend, Ph.D, at the OSU hop farms in Corvallis, Oregon. August 2011.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Columbia Finally Gets Her Limelight

Oregon Rain!!
Roger and Dr. Al Haunold
performing the Willamette
Valley Hop Dance, Goschie Farms.
"These are my babies," beams
The People's HopMeister.

Introducing, finally, after being banished by the King of Beers in the hop basement for two decades, the fragrant, the durable, the the unsung sister of the Queen of Oregon Hops, the soon to be mighty Lovely Miss Columbia!!  
We've written previously about our efforts to resurrect Columbia, the forgotten sister of Willamette. To recap, back in the Summer of Love, Dr. Al Haunold was asked by Bud to breed a hop similar in character to Fuggles. Several years later, early in the Disco era, he presented two new cultivars, Columbia and Willamette.

Bud's team of six brewers evaluated pilot beers using the new little "Fugglish" darlings, and all six selected Columbia as the winner. Rank, however, has its privileges. Along comes their boss, Bud's head brewmaster, Frank Schwaiger. Frank zeroed in on the chemistry. Columbia had a slightly higher alpha acid profile than Willamette (8-9% AA vs. 5-7%, respectively), but otherwise the oil profile was virtually indistinguishable. Our German born Brewmeister prophesied that the US consumer would never go for a higher alpha acid hop (a prediction that ranks right up there with Henry Ford's lawyer advice that the automobile was simply a fad and the horse was here to stay).

The result: Bud chose Willlamette, which went on to fame and fortune, and Columbia never saw the light of day. Until now. Yesterday, on a brilliant, sunny day in the Valley, we walked the hopyards at the idyllic Goschie Farms with Columbia's proud papa, Dr. Al Haunold. Al last saw big green Columbia cones dangling some 40 years ago. Needless to say, he was happy to see Willamette's slightly bolder sister finally get her moment in the sunlight.
Separated at Birth.
Pointy Columbias, on the left,
and plump Willamettes, on the right.

And so are we. Columbia and Willamette share the same parents and yet they sport amazing differences. Take a look at the picture to the right. The Columbia cone is longer and narrower with spiked bracts (granted, this is approxiately 2-3 weeks before harvest). Willamette is fuller, rounder and plumper. As mentioned, the chemistry profiles are slighlty different. As for aroma, based on an in-the-field rub & sniff, both have superb aroma, but the Columbia has a subtle "lemon twist" at the finish that seems to trigger an eye-lid flutter response and cheeky giggle.  

Welcome to the light, Miss Columbia. May you enjoy many more moments in the sun as we, the beer drinking public, finally get to revel in your glorious bounty.

Roger Worthington

A Man Outstanding in His Field.
Here he is -- the man who
brought us 23 public hop varieties.
Dr. Al Haunold, surrounded by Columbia hops.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Taking the High Roads with Backroads

Jackson Hole, Wyo. It's no secret that craft beer and bicycles go together like champagne and limosines. A bicycle allows its operator to roam about, to explore the nooks and crannies, and to work up a thirst for the kind of beer that keeps the ride alive when the legs stop spinning. A richly hopped beer and a robust bike ride can both clear the head and open hidden doors.

So it was with great gratitude but little surprise that waiting for me at the end of my bike ride through the maze of mud pots, geysers and hot springs of Yellowstone, right there on the picnic table, courtesy of my good friends at Backroads, was a cooler crammed with locally brewed craft beer. Overjoyed, but not surprised, since it seems true enough that the further you get away from Main Street, and the closer you get to the untamed wild, the more you crave the wonders of nature's bounty.

That said, also waiting for my family and me was a 5 star tent with sleeping bags rolled out on top of cushy air mattresses. Hardly roughing it. Again, Backroads knows even in the backwoods there's no substitute for a soft pillow to lay your head down after a full day of exercise and demon exorcism.

For the next five nights, as we journeyed South from Yellowstone down to the Grand Tetons, I tended to push myself a little harder, knowing that each night a new craft beer from a new local brewery awaited me on ice. My fellow travelers understood my addiction. They shared my love of craft beer -- a perfect companion around the campfire as the kids romped and stomped about while the team of chefs prepared another amazing four course meal -- but a few kind souls came to understand that to me craft beer was sort of like heart medicine to a cardiac patient. They made sure that, in view of the strong demand, and my proclivity for ranting and raving, I would never be left bereft of my hoppy fix.

They sacrificed. They drank wine. They drank margaritas. They even ... gulp... cracked a can of Coors. Now that's brotherly love. In the bush, guided by Backroads, in the middle of bear and wolf country, foregoing a botanical derived, hand crafted ale for a thin industrial fizzy. When I think of the strength and courage shown men and women whom I'd never before met, volunteering to dumb down so that I could rise up and fulfill my quest for exuberant drunkeness, well, it brings me to tears.

And so a toast: thank you Backroads for pairing your intrepid travelers with home cooked brew. Thank you Snake River Brewing, Big Sky Brewing, Deschutes, and Grand Teton Brewing for mixing up the medicine. And thank you Indifferent Creator for the light show every night at about 3 am as I gazed up while returning the beer residuals you wrought back to the soil.



Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Indie Hops Supports Brain Altering Exercise

Adrenaline? Check.
Endorphin pump lit? Check.
Dopamine shooters? Check.
Serotonin uppers? Check.
Case of Indie Hops infused IPA on ice? Check.

We love sports, especially endurance sports, like cycling. Since inception we've sponsored the Mt Hood Cycling Classic, the Dana Point Grand Prix, and the granddaddy of all US pro-am stage races, the Cascade Cycling Classic in Bend, Oregon.

Todays marks stage 1 of the CCC, a breathtakingly beautiful route that takes the peloton up and over the rugged McKenzie Pass. The peloton will crest at the summit of a jagged lava bed, in full view of a shimmering glacier on South Sister, descend into quilt and rodeo-loving Sisters, and finish with a grueling 9 mile climb up the daunting Three Creeks Road. May the slowest among you generate the most pain-relieving neuro-chemicals! May the fastest (and most bike-addicted) among you share you euphoria with friends.

The 2011 CCC promises to be an unforgettable journey under banner blue skies. This old die-hard can't wait for Friday's road race that finishes on top of Mt. Bachelor. I've been tasting Heaven and Hell at this race for over 15 years and, like all bone fide junkies, continue to nurse the dream that instead of slowing down with age I'm instead getting faster, smarter and gosh darn it balder.  Click here for an article in the Bend Bulletin about the war horses of the CCC.

The Cannon is loaded!
A garmin rider prepares to blast off in the
 2011 CCC prologue. Powered by Indie Hops!
 If you're here in Bend, enjoy the race. If you're not, there's still time to drive over and catch the Criterium in downtown Bend on Saturday night. Find yourself a table on the course and catch the whiz-bang action while washing down baked salmon with your favorite libation.

Just as exercise can improve your self-esteem, enhance your mood, and provide a welcome escape from the clutter of life, we believe the right beer at the right time in the right place with the right blend of hop oils can do the same. Shoot, with the right beer, variables be damned. Isn't that when we need our favorite beer the most? When we've found ourselves in a pit of vipers, with black widows crawling up our necks, and hobgoblins burrowing into our brain?

Break out! Climb a mountain. Run along a river. Pedal through a rain forest. Paddle on a glassy still mountain lake. Nurse a double IPA and elevate.


Roger Worthington


Talk about Euphoria! No need to visit
the Alps when McKenize Pass, with 30 foot
snowbanks, is just a few huff and puffs away.
 This photo was snapped on June 13, 2011.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Hop Oil: Is Bigger Better? A preview of ongoing research at OSU

Time to take a step back, scratch the chin, and ponder what it’s all about.

I’m talking of course about the Big Questions. No, not whether great beer makes you a better person (I think it does) or whether a beer with the right kind and amount of hops can make you live longer and happier (you gotta believe).

The Big Question for the moment is this: Is Bigger Better? That is, higher total hop oil content a reliable measure of the hop’s potential for great flavor?
Let’s break it down. It’s fairly certain that the same amount of whole cones will have a higher total oil content that even the best crafted pellet. Does this mean that the whole hop will add more millileters of total oil to your pint glass than a good pellet? Possibly yes, depending on the specific oil compound.

But does it mean that the whole hop will add more of the oil compounds we desire to your pint glass? Ah, that’s the question. Actually, it opens up a series of questions, the first of which is what oil compounds do we actually desire?

It would be so easy if we could crank up the high tech machinery, identify particular oils, measure the percentage of said oils in a given assay of hops and then conclude that one cultivar is “better” because it has more of the “more desirable” oil compounds. But, alas, god’s not in the machines, and really and truly there are as many gods as there are palates, although perhaps some flavor gods are more better than others (with apologies to the grammar gods).

Let’s look at the Cascade hop for a second. A Cascade whole hop can have 40-60% more total oil (in mL/100g) than an assay of your typical type 90 pellet. Looks impressive. And many brewers do have success in dry hopping with “big total oil” varieties (eg, CTZ). But let’s peel back the onion a bit.

Does the “big oil” hop deliver the “most desirable” oils? Again, lets look at Cascade. Between 70 and 80% of the total oil in Cascades is myrcene (roughly ~53%) and humulene (~26%). In a well designed pellet, the myrcene-humulene (M-H) content is approximately 35% and 26%, respectively. In short, the M-H content in a Cascade whole hop will likely gobble up between 75 and 80% of the total oils, but in a pellet, the M-H content is far smaller at around 55-60%.  

OK, so, two more questions. One, what’s wrong with myrcene and humulene? And two, all fine and dandy, but isn’t the real measure how much of the oil actually ends up in your pint glass?

"Odors Compounds" chart from OSU
Click here for a larger version
 Break it down. First, on the question of the desirability of specific oils, take a look at the “Odor Compounds” chart from Oregon State University. Myrcene is described as “Green, balsamic and slightly metallic aroma). Humulene: piny/woody. Certainly nothing wrong with those descriptors.

For perspective, take a look at some of the others, such as geraniol, limonene, citral, linalool, and we come across descriptors at least this drinker tends to find a bit more appealing (rosy, fruity, citrusy, floral, orangy, etc). Anecdotally, I haven’t heard too many brewers tout either myrcene or humulene as “target oils.” Then again, we’re huge fans of Odell and I’m sure their Myrcenary Double IPA is a knock-out!

On the second question – how much of the oil makes it in your pint glass – the answer is more complex, but equally interesting. A quick bit of background first (sorry for all the parenthetical chatter!) – IH is sponsoring research on the correlation, if any, between the medium of the hop (whole flower vs four vendors’ type 90 pellets) and the relative contribution of total and specific oils when dry hopping. The results should be forthcoming soon but we’ve already observed a thing or two of the eyebrow raising variety.

Even though the whole hop has about 70% more total myrcene than a typical pellet, the amount of myrcene from the flower that is dispersed into your pint glass appears to be substantially less (5.5 ml vs ~6.5 ml). A far lower amount of myrcene is “extracted” compared to a pellet (5% compared to 17%). It appears that a big chunk of the myrcene in the whole hop is lost. (Where did it go? Another question for another day).

Do the smaller but perhaps more flavorful oil compounds exhibit similar “volatility?” Does the design of the pellet (eg. average particle size , density and diameter) influence the expression of certain desirable oil compounds? Do certain oils have a “saturation point” where, regardless of the starting point of oil quantity in the flower or pellet, when added to a beer-like solution, is there a threshold for maximum solubility? Does the design of the pellet influence the rate of oil extraction? And how does all of this potentially impact what brewers do or should do in the brewhouse?

For those answers, and more fun questions, please stay tuned. In the meantime, viva la difference! Using the scientific method, with the aid of technology, we can draw verifiable and repeatable conclusions from the data. But, as we’ve said before, even the most sophisticated palates will disagree on the description let alone desirability of the oils from the same hop as they work themselves into your pint glass. See

July 4, 2011

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Indie Hops Organics Update: 2012 Will Be a Big Year for the Big O

Organic hops got a boost recently when the USDA ruled that beers labeled “organic” must use organic hops by January 1, 2013. Many brewers are concerned that the organic supply will fall short of the demand. Here’s an update on what IH is doing to help supply and enhance that demand.

Indie Hops began growing organic hops last year. At Goschie Farms, we currently have 12 acres established on acreage that will be certified organic for the 2012 harvest. Of those acres, ten (10) are Cascades and two (2) are Centennial. Last year, an abnormally long and wet Spring triggered a downy mildew breakout. Fortunately, the DM spores did not strike our organic fields. Whew!

We will be planting additional acreage in 2011 on Goschie Farms as follows:

3.2 acres Centennial
3 acres Newport (15% AA, 50% Magnum parentage, CoH 38, 2.0 oil, good storage, Resistant to DM)
3 acres Perle (9% AA, 28 coH, 1.1 oil, very good storage, resistant to DM)
1 acre Fuggle (6% AA, 27 CoH, .6 oil, DM Tolerant)

All of the above varieties from our 22.2 total organic acreage will be available in 2012. Our pellet mill will also be certified organic for converting the 2012 harvest into pellets. We are pleased to note that organic hops won’t need to be trucked from Oregon farms to Yakima to be pelleted and then trucked back to Oregon brewers. Our Big O hops will be both green and greenhouse friendly.

Low Trellis, High Plant Strength

Gayle Goschie, our hop whisperer, is excited about her decision to string the organic hops on a low trellis. Organic hops face all sorts of disease and pest pressures. The best bulwark against nasty invaders is a healthy plant with a strong root system (and of course a monsoon-free spring!)

By using low trellis, we will not cut the bines at the base during harvest. The picker will strip the cones and leaves from the sidearms, but let the remaining “stripped hop skeleton” live on for another two months. During that time, the nutrients and carbohydrates in the bines will continue to nourish the root system, making for a hardier plant the following season. When the bines dry out, they will be cleared.

Hope Springs Eternal but Cross Fingers

2010 was a wet year – Biblically wet. Add moisture and warmth to soil and you have a fertile soup for mildew. Last year, we waited until mid-May for the ground to dry up before planting our Cascades and Centennials. The strategy paid off, as so far our fields look great, with the caveat that our vigilance must step up as the rains begin to recede in the Willamette Valley as the sun breaks out and the soil warms up.

To be safe, we will be planting our additional ten organic acres (Centennial, Perle, Newport and Fuggle) also in mid May. At present, our wonder weeds are getting stronger in a cool greenhouse. Later on we’ll transfer them a shade house before planting in the ground.

We’re optimistic, but crossing our fingers, toes and legs that the Spring will be dry enough so that Gayle “the Hoptomist” can walk the fields and spot treat any pest or mildew sightings. Last Spring was so wet Gayle couldn't get her tractors out to aerate the soil as often as she wanted.

One thing’s for sure, we’ll have plenty of pretty photos of our organic yards this summer. Between the hop rows Gayle will be planting vetch, an excellent nitrogen-fixing legume that bears lovely lavender flowers.

The Price is Right, We Think

The first question brewers are asking is whether the variety they want will be available. The second question is how much more will they cost than conventional hops?

We chose the varieties that we think have good disease resistance (Centennial will be the biggest challenge) and strong demand by brewers. We confess that we struggled with how to price our future organic hops. Clearly, the establishment and production costs have been greater than conventional crops. It takes three years for the acreage to transition from conventional to organic. Because of the pest and disease threats, the yields will likely be significantly lower. And processing will be more labor extensive, as well need to purge our clean, green pellet mill of any conventional hop residue.

So what do we do? How about, hmmm, the honest and right thing? We talked to both our grower and to potential brewer customers. In the end, we decided on an adjustable formula that ties the price to the yield. The higher the yield, the lower the price. On the flipside, after setting a fixed maximum price, the lower the yield, the higher the price.

We’re All in this Together

Our philosophy in setting the price is simple: we’re all in this together. This is a time of transition. Organics are no longer a fad, as consumers have begun to embrace the environmental and health benefits of synthetics-free foods. But to get to that point where the price gap between organic and non-organic hops narrows, the farmers will need to get it right. That takes time, trial and error, persistence and luck.

Here’s what we came up with: a maximum “worst case scenario” price per pound has been set at $18.00. That way a brewer knows that even in an extremely low yield situation there is a ceiling to what they need to pay for organic hops. The table below shows the price decreases as yields go up. Hey.... those prices look better than conventional hop prices during recent years!

Our agreement with the farm is that revenue from organic hop sales will first go toward covering the farms costs of organically cultivating the 20+ acres of hops. Once the farms costs are covered, the sales go toward covering the smaller IH direct costs of processing and handling. With direct costs covered for both parties, any additional sales revenue will be split 50/50 since we have shared the costs of establishing the organic acreage over the four years prior to the first certified organic harvest.

Yield per Acre (lbs.)     Wholesale Price/lb.
Less than 750 lbs.             $18.00
750-849 lbs.                     $17.50
850-999 lbs.                     $17.00
1000-1199 lbs.                 $16.00
1200-1399 lbs.                 $15.00
1400-1599 lbs.                 $14.00
1600 and above                $13.00

Brewers interested in planning ahead for some of their organic hops needs are encouraged to come visit this year to see the progress of the crop themselves. We also encourage you to contract ahead for greater security of supply.

We of course remain encouraged by Gayle’s optimism. We’re also buoyed by the slow but steady progress by “chemical companies” to ramp up production on organic compounds to control the undesirable pests, weeds and mildews.

Let's raise a pint to insecticidal soaps, fish oils, garlic extracts, biopesticides and plant and soil boosters! May the salubrious lady bugs and the pernicious aphids find a happy balance. As for mildew, can we please have more sun and less rain this Spring? And, if not, a note to the nasty mildew spores: may Gayle find you and give you a farewell squirt of hot copper.


For an excellent article on the challenges faced by organic hop growers, please read the April 2011 issue of The New Brewer, “ New Rules for Organic Hops: Time is of essence for brewers, growers.” Click here.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Thanks for Stopping By!

Matt Sage dealing the green gold
San Francisco CBC. Our first show and Jim, Matt and I had a blast. Non stop fun, action, beer, laughs and food. Haven't had so much fun indoors since the time my Mom dropped me off at the State Theatre in Corvallis, Oregon on a dark, rainy day and I got to watch "Swiss Family Robinson" for 7 straight hours.

We had the pleasure of talking with brewers from Anchorage to Atlanta and from Portland, Maine to San Diego. Wherever they were from, a few common themes emerged.

Brewers understood the importance of keeping publicly owned varieties alive and well. Many a woe was expressed about the undersupply of privatized hop varieties to which the bereft brewer had become "addicted."

Brewers also understood that they could exert control over their future hop supply with reasonable and fair contracts. The days of living off the scraps that dropped from the tables of the big brewers are long gone. As one brewer put it, "Contracts have gotten a bad rap because of what happened in 2008 but they're the best bulwark against radical swings in supply and price."

We heard about one merchant offering a brewer Cascades for under $3 per pound. Three dollars a pound?!? For artisan aroma hops? Three dollars a pound is well below the costs of production and processing. It's a price so outrageously below market one is forced to ask whether the merchant is dumping hops with the goal of driving out competition.

Just a few years ago merchants were demanding $25 for Cascades. As Matt Sage wisely warned: "If you want to avoid paying $25 for hops, don't pay $3." Makes sense. Negotiate a price that is sustainable for the hop farmer, the hop processor and the brewer. Most brewers get it that quality artisan hops are going to cost more than factory-farm high-alpha varieties.
Roger and the HOP Queen

Had a wonderful time talking about all the good stuff Indie Hops is doing with hop oil maturity studies, oil extraction experiments, organic hop production, and our aroma hop breeding program at OSU. More importantly, I learned more about what keeps brewers up at night. I like to live by the old adage -- ain't no problem we can't solve.

Thanks again for dropping by the Indie Hops booth. It's great to be part of a thriving business that's equal parts inspiration, perspiration, science and spiritual awakening. The best statistic I heard all week is that while Craft is around 5% of the US beer production we produce 50% of the jobs! Very cool.


Monday, March 21, 2011

Indie Hops Supports Amgen Breakaway from Cancer Walk, Race and Fundraiser

IH is teaming up with our friends at Amgen, Sierra Nevada, and Karl Strauss to support the Breakaway from Cancer (BfC) Dana Point Grand Prix and cancer research fundraiser.

The BfC fundraiser will be held at the Dana Point Yacht Club on Saturday, April 30th. All net proceeds will benefit cancer research and bicycle advocate charities. For details on the fundraiser, and how you can participate, click here.

On Sunday, May 1st, Indie Hops will co-sponsor the Dana Point Grand Prix, which consists of a series of pro-am races criterium races. The highlight of the day, in addition to the kids races, will be the Breakaway Walk. The Walk is open to all cancer survivors, caregivers, and advocates. Far from being a downer, this event will give cancer survivors and loved ones something to cheer about as we celebrate the strength, courage, skill and teamwork it takes to keep cancer at bay.

Speaking of knocking cancer to its knees, as you probably know hops may play a role. Hops contain two major polyphenols, xanthohumol and quercetin. Both “flavonoid” compounds have been shown in benchwork research to induce cell death in various cancer cells in test tubes (in vitro), as well as being strong anti-oxidants.

A bevy of regulations prevent (and rightly so) brewers from touting their beer as a nutritional bulwark against cancer, but there is plenty of research to support the hypothesis that xanthohumol, extracted from humulus lupulin, may have cancer fighting properties.

Note to the gullible – this doesn't mean you can escape cancer by pounding your favorite brew daily. I think you’d have to drink about a keg daily to get a meaningful XN dosage but at that regimen cancer would be the least of your worries. It would be cool, however, to breed a hop high in XN and try to brew a “healthy” beer that actually tasted good.

Go online to the PubMed database and enter “xanthohumol” and “cancer” and 58 articles will pop up which examine xanthohumul’s potential role in guarding against various forms of cancer. Am I saying that we would be better off taking a concentrated capsule of xanthohumol daily? No. But if there was such a capsule, I’d probably take one, just as I take a daily dose of resveratrol, the bioflavonoid from the skin of grapes, another strong anti-oxidant with potential anti-tumorigenic properties.

Whether it’s to support bike racing, a healthy lifestyle or just to celebrate life and have a good time, come on down to the BfC Dana Point Grand Prix. I’ll be working the mic and I may even don the skinsuit to run with the bulls in the masters race.

Thanks again to our friends at Karl Strauss and Sierra Nevada for donating truckloads of beer for the fundraiser and bike racer. On race day, our buddies at the 5th Marine Regiment from Camp Pendleton will be manning the beer tent. Portions of the sale of beer will be donated to the 5th Marine Regiment.

Support Cancer Research, Ride Bikes, Walk the Walk, Drink Hoppy Beer or Die!


Hop Harvest Time: When and How Do You Know? OSU’s Tom Shellhammer Has A Clue

When is the optimum time to harvest hops for aroma?

How will you know when that optimum has been reached?

Do different aroma oils reach their maximum concentration at different times as the cone ripens?

These are some of the questions that drive Indie Hops to fund hop ‘maturity’ studies at Oregon State University. We are pleased to announce that the results of our first effort to wrestle with this topic will be presented at this year’s Craft Brewers’ Conference in San Francisco by OSU Professor Dr. Tom Shellhammer on Saturday, March 26th.

In late summer and early fall of 2010, Cascade and Willamette hops were collected on three successive weeks at three Oregon locations and analyzed for aromatic compounds by Gas Chromatography and Mass Spectrometry. Thirty-one different GC ‘peaks’ were identified and compared.

In a fortunate coincidence, single hop beers using some of the very same hops were brewed by Deschutes Brewing and later judged by a sensory panel at OSU. This allowed us to relate some of the lab analysis to actual flavor perception in beer, something that will be pursued more fully in subsequent projects.

The complexity of hop aroma is so great that it’s not surprising to find that each attempt to answer one question brings several more to the surface. And although this first study is too limited to produce any grand conclusions, some commonly heard notions about hops now seem to be less certain. If you’re going to CBC, consider attending Dr. Shellhammer’s presentation to judge for yourself.

Perhaps some day we’ll learn that a 5-day difference at harvest can mean the difference between a decent well-hopped craft beer and a remarkable one.

See you at the CBC.


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Going Big on my 50th Birthday With Kevin Buckley’s Imperi-Ale 5.0

Whether surfing, snowboarding, mountain biking or drinking IPAs, there’s a fine line between “going big” and taking yourself out.

More’s not always better. Sure, it’s quite a thrill to land that gnarly jump or ride that killer wave, but there’s a point where raising the bar will eventually kill you. Sort of like with imperial IPAs – a bigger IBU doesn't usually translate as a better tasting beer.

With that challenge in mind, I asked my friend Kevin Buckley to work outside his comfort zone and brew a specialty “big beer” for my 50th birthday. Kevin doesn’t normally toil away making gigantic “hop bombs,” but he generously agreed to give it a go.

The marching orders: use all Oregon grown hops supplied by Indie Hops; use about 5 pounds per barrel (to match my 50th), and unleash it on the night of my roast, cold (two months hence). The name: Imperi-Ale 5.0.

Kevin brewed with our Nuggets (13.9% AA, high essential oils), Centennial (11.5% AA, also high in essential oils), and Cascades (8.5% AA) per the following schedule:

First Wort-Nugget 2#
60 min-Centennial 2#
60 min-Nugget 3#
15 min-Centennial 2#
15 min-Nugget 2#
Whirlpool- Centennial 1#
Whirlpool-Cascade 2#
Primary ferm-Cascade 5#
Dry Hop-Cascade 15#
Dry Hop-Centennial 6#
Dry Hop-Nugget 4#

Dry hopping with Nugget? We admired the pluck, but were a bit concerned. Although it’s not uncommon to dry hop with super alphas that also have high essential oil (e.g., Columbus, Magnum, Summit, Simoce), most of said oil consists of myrcene and we were worried about off flavors (cat piss, grassy or machine –yuck!). How would all those essential oils, mainly myrcene in the Centennials and Nuggets, react with the alcohol, Co2, yeast, sugars, and oxygen?

Surprise Surprise! The result was a highly drinkable, well-balanced, pleasantly fruity beer without the sharp bitterness you might expect from a hop-forward ale clocking in at 98 IBU. The 8.7% ABV proved dangerously unnoticeable, as my fired up and emboldened friends lapped it up and proceeded to pound me unmercifully. Hey, like I told my roasters: A true friend will stab you in the front! (quoting Oscar Wilde). It went quickly.

A few of the comments on the Imperi-Ale 5.0 from the not exactly naïve quaffers in the room: a mildly sweet front end with a touch of melon flavor… A clean transition to a gentle bitterness… Moves towards a citrus/spicy note nurtured by a warming bready-toasty character of malt…. Finishes with a crisp melon punch and caramel sweetness, capped by a touch of lingering bitterness…

As Kevin modestly explained: “This brew, while loaded with hops, was designed to be big yet enjoyable for all levels of drinkers. For the extreme hop heads, there are moments when the hop bitterness shines through. For those partial to red/English pales, there’s plenty of body and malt complexity.”

Thanks Kevin. You went Big and we enjoyed the ride. And thanks for experimenting with our Nuggets for dry hopping. It’s a credit to your brewing talents that you were able to land this hugely hopped beer with grace and style (in stark contrast to Mr. Solberg, who after a few hours of steady infusion fell like a Mighty Doug Fir).

Imperi-Ale 5.0 was launched last week and Kevin’s customers are loving it. There’s still a few kegs left, but you should probably beat a hasty path down to Backstreet Brewery in Vista if you want to taste this break out, all Oregon grown hops beer. Hey, to those of you who might’ve stereotyped IH as an aroma only outfit, we can go big with the alpha, too!

Roger Worthington

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Variety, Uniqueness, Consistency

Craft beer thrives in a culture of diversity and adventure. In our own little town of Portland, Oregon, as soon as we reached thirty-some breweries and mumblings of “over saturated” picked up, a dozen more breweries opened up much to the enduring gratitude of happy customers. The growing variety of beers, pubs and breweries is attracting more and more thirsty people everyday.

Perhaps more than any other arrow in the quiver of ingredients, hops cast a spell on brewers and imbibers of American craft beer, tickling the potential for variety and individualism. Their symphony of oils reaches each of us with a unique tone, the crescendo leading some to ecstasy and others to seek refuge. We continue to be amazed at how wildly different educated palates can interpret the same hop.

Last summer a focus group panel was held that illustrates these varied perceptions toward hops. A group of accomplished craft brewers from Oregon tasted a series of single-hopped beers, not knowing what the hop was in the various samples. Descriptors they used to describe the prevailing hop character, and the number of panelists who used that descriptor, are below:

Clearly, one brewer’s nectar can be another’s poison! [One guy’s fruity apple can be another’s cat pee?]

As we’ve striven to learn from brewers how they’d like to see the hop world evolve, this theme of variety, creativity and uniqueness stands out.

Our resident brewer and Brewery Ambassador Matt Sage has recently travelled the craft brewery scenes in Washington State, Oregon, Southern California and Colorado, seeking insights into what brewers are looking for in hops. His findings are as varied as his travels! Click here for a taste of Matt’s curious adventures in the world of hop flavor.

Alongside variety and uniqueness, brewers also care about consistency. After all, when we find something we really like, we want it to be consistent. What can Indie Hops do to help the hop world evolve in a way that craft brewers would like to see? Well...might as well start with variety, uniqueness and consistency!

Click here for a review of a few of the breeding projects underway at Oregon State University that we are spearheading in our quest to probe the mysteries and amplify the wonders of the noble flower.


Good Times at Karl Strauss’ 22nd Anniversary Party

San Diego. Let’s deal with it: most of us are afraid of stouts. Not because of the taste – in fact, we recoil from the darkish, kawfeeish hell’s brew in spite of the taste. Once we get past the word’s connotation – stout, burly, thick, fire hydrant-ish – and actually taste it, all doubts tends to disappear. Like going into a scary neighborhood and coming out with a new best friend.

I admit to such a bias. Never a fan of the stouts. But then I took the leap (I was pushed) and – Eureka! – I found it. I may have graduated, but not my Darling Wife. She’s cold on kawfee. And she of course assumed dark malted beer tasted like espresso. And then there’s that whole weight thing: drink this and your buttons will pop and your bra will snap.

So it was with great pleasure – like perhaps watching a problem child graduate with honors – that I watched my bethrothed belly up to the Stout line more times than I could count. Thank you Karl Strauss: you’ve shown another lost soul The Light and The Way. And still that girlish figure!

A big shout out to my friends Chris Cramer, Matt Rattner and Paul Segura down at Karl Strauss. We were fortunate to get through the velvet rope for a sampling of KS’ latest barrel aged stouts. Paul is truly breaking out with exciting new recipes that dazzle and delight. We sipped the bourbon barrel blended and unblended vanilla imperial stout and found ourselves inside our favorite confectionaire in Bruges, aglow in the creamy warmth of chocolate, raisins, vanilla and – yes! yes! – coffee.

Turns out the DW can enjoy coffee as long as it’s buttressed with vanilla beans, malt, hops and bourbon barrel aged!

As the band played and strangers became friends and the delicious hors dourves slowly disappeared, it occurred to us that we were having a peak moment inside what amounted to an unheated industrial warehouse. The only pretense of glamour was a red carpet, which was more parody that fashion. The stark surroundings drove home the cliché that great friends, food, beer and music make a great party, not a fancy ballroom or chic nightclub.

And yet… there is talk of remodeling the Karl Strauss brewery, building out a tasting room, adding a patio, and making the brewery a destination spot. As much fun as we had in the unvarnished brewhouse, just imagine the joy of tasting KS’s finest with old and new friends around a fire pit after a walk on the beach or exhilarating bike ride. The brewery is located smack dab on one of the most popular bike routes in San Diego.

I see potential.



Monday, January 24, 2011

The Low Down on Simcoe®

Having trouble getting Simcoe®? You’re not alone. A ton of brewers have asked us for Simcoe®, which we don’t have, as it’s a proprietary hop owned by Select Botanicals Group, LLC, who restricts who can grow it. Our growers have not been licensed to plant Simcoe®.

A brewer in Southern California recently told me he just bought the last 3,000 pounds. I didn’t ask what he paid, but in view of the high demand and short supply, I’m sure the “spot” price was not pretty.

The scarcity of Simcoe® and the near-desperate demand prompted me to poke around. First, let’s look at the sheets. Yakima Chief Ranches,Inc. applied for the original patent in 199. They identified Simcoe® as a dual purpose bittering/aroma hop, with a hefty yield of 2300-2500 pounds per acre. The current owner of the trademark Simcoe(r) is Select Botanicals Group, LLC, of Washington.

A review of the USAHops website shows that the Washington farmers planted 237 acres of Simcoe® in 2010, up 29% from 2009. (By comparison, WA farmers planted 443 acres of Chinook, up 15%).

However, the average yield was 1,698 lbs/acre. This is a 20% drop from the year before and about a 30% decline from it’s purported average yield ( 2,300—2,500 lbs/acre). (By comparison, Chinook’s average yield was up around 8% at 1,963 lbs/acre).

I understand that Simcoe's owner has licensed three (3) farms in Washington to grow their prized invention. I'm not sure how many merchants are allowed to sell it.

It’s clear that the supply was down. A baby harvest? Pest or mildew issues? Not sure.

Why the popular demand? Let’s look at Simcoe’s chemistry:

Alpha acids: 12-14% (Chinook 13-15, Centenn. 10-13)
Beta acids: 4-5%
Cohumulone: 15-20% (remarkably low!)
Total Oil: 2—2.5 ml/100 g (huge, on par with Magnum and Centennial)
Myrcene: 60-65% (Chinook’s is 52)
Farnesene: 0% (Chinook and Centenn. “trace”)
H/C ratio: 2.1 (same as Chinook)
Storability: good
Parentage: Undisclosed (the inventor’s not telling)

Brewers have described the aroma as complex, hovering between citrusy/grapefruity and piney. I’ve read references to Simcoe® as “Cascades on steroids.” Interestingly, in Yakima Chief’s patent application, the only hops referenced were Cascade and Galena, in the context of shattering potential and shoot emergence, respectively.

So let’s say you want Simcoe® but can’t get it or don’t want to pay high spot market prices. Are there “alternatives?” Choosing an “alternative” is at best an inexact science. Do we find a cultivar with similar hop chemistry? We can’t compare parentage, as Yakima Chief’s keeping the blood lines secret. We could study key molecular markers on the Simcoe® mystery hop and on likely parental genotypes, but this would take both big time and big money.

For now, if your recipe calls for Simcoe® but you can’t get it, you might experiment with blending hops. We haven’t done the science, nor have we played with pilot brews ourselves, but our hunch is a blend of Chinook and Horizon might do the trick (Horizon for bittering only).

In our view, the spot market spike and scarcity of Simcoe® points up the need for diversification. Brewers should have access to suitable hop alternatives. Growers should have access to rhizomes without paying restrictive licensing fees. Scientists should have access to the parentage, both to develop alternatives as well as to validate disease resistance assessments.

Of course, the shortage also underscores the need by brewers to contract long term with merchants or growers for must-have varieties. In 2011, we will be harvesting our first crop of both Chinook and Horizon. We’re naturally very excited, as over the last few decades both workhorse hops have been the exclusive province of Washington growers.

Roger Worthington

PS. For more information on Simcoe®, click on:

To compare Simcoe’s hop chemistry with other cultivars, click on: and

To read Simcoe®’s patent application, click here

For more information of Select Botanicals Group, LLC, see

Click here for the trademark ownership.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Hobby Hop Farmer Jim Spencer Mixing Up the Medicine

Here’s a fun story.

My neighbor up in Madras, Oregon, Jim Spencer (that serene fella to the right), read my blog about using a French Press to extract more hop juice and decided to give it a go himself. Turns out Jim is a gentleman hop farmer with an abiding passion for the noble flower.

I’ve learned that Jim’s growing Cascades, Magnum, Newport, Nugget, CTZ and Chinook – the higher alpha varieties – on just under one acre. You got to love that Oregon pioneering spirit.

Anyway, Jim took my experiment to the next level. Using Nugget cones from his own yard, he’s been brewing up a hop tea and adding it to his favorite IPA. Like me, he’s drawn to the potential power of the hop to relax the nerves and fight off free radicals. He warns that drinking too much of hop tea in the morning can render you nearly comatose (but happy) by noon (well, it might make you happy, not your boss).

Like any dedicated lab rat, Jim’s committed to his playful tinkering. As soon as he finds the right balance that relaxes without tranquilizing, we’ll let you know. By the way, we’re having fun here so if you’re a snoop for the FDA hell bent on scolding exuberant hop heads, please chill out (at least try).

From: Jim Spencer
To: Roger Worghingon
Sent: January 05, 2011
Subject: Home Hop Press Experiment


Just got a French Press Coffee Maker for Christmas. Decided to try your Home Hop Press Experiment after reading your article from the October Issue of your blog. It occurred to me that HEAT was needed to release the oils and the rest of the goodness locked up in the hops.

I put about 1/4 cup of whole hop cones (Newport) in the French Press and added 1 cup hot water (about 180F) and let it steep for 6-10 min. Then I strained it [about 4-6 ozs] into an Imperial Pint glass and topped it off with a 12oz Pale Ale (Homebrew).

The result was surprisingly drinkable. The color was that of a pinkish Hefewiezen and the taste was strongly citrusy but still had some "beer-like" qualities. With a little tweaking of the Hop-Tea to Beer ratio I think it may make a decently refreshing summer a raspberry wheat type of summer beer.

But, I think the real value of this concoction is as a Health Cocktail. Like you, I'm convinced that it is full of concentrated levels of anti-oxidants, anti-microbials, anti-cancer agents, etc, etc. I've had one of these drinks each of the last 4 nights and I've got to say I've been sleeping great, too.

I have no idea how to fit a giant French Press type plunger on a fermentation tank...but I have found a tasty sleep-aid and I may just be protecting myself from cancer at the same time.

Thanks for the tip. Hope this helps.

Jim Spencer
Madras, OR

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Competition Good for Hops, Farmers and Brewers

Attention Craft Brewers:

I hope this note finds you in a robust spirit as we settle in to the new year. Fortunately, we have much to be upbeat about – craft brewing is one of the few bright spots in an otherwise dismal economy. Every day it seems we’re hoisting hoppier beers and welcoming more happy converts.

As you plan your future hop needs, please consider Indie Hops.

Our prices may not be the lowest you can find but they will be competitive enough to not have a significant effect on the hop portion of your COGS. If it's more, it will be a tiny fraction of the $10 more per lb. you were paying just recently and it's a fair price to pay to insure that everyone in the supply chain is healthy so that the hop supply stabilizes.

After several years of selling hops at a 400% markup, the de facto hop cartel in Yakima can afford to offer new contracts virtually at cost in order to keep you dependent on them when the next price cycle comes along. Yes, there was a tight market in 2008 and it is reasonable that brewers without contracts would have to pay more that year. However, the very next year 7,000 additional acres of hops were put in and there was no longer a shortage to justify the long contracts at record high prices. Having few alternatives, you had little choice but to agree to lopsided terms.

Do you want to reward the Yakima merchants for this behavior by giving them all of your business now that spot prices are low? Unless Indie Hops and others are around to offer competition the next time the supply tightens, you will once again have no choice.

So having said all that, I politely encourage you to continue to diversify. Buy from your current suppliers. Buy directly from farmers. Buy locally. Buy from overseas. And buy from the new guys with the lightly processed fresh pellets who believe in promoting publicly owned cultivars – Indie Hops. Spread the love, lower the risks of controversial shortages, promote hop and hop farmer diversification, and make a new friend with a fresh spirit.

Keeping competition alive will be as good for the hop industry as it has been for the brewing industry. We appreciate your support.



Available hops:

2011 crop: