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.

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