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.