Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Hop History with Dr. Haunold, Part IV

Santiam, US Tettnanger, Fuggles: Will the Real Tettnanger Please Stand Up?

Many of you may be buying “US Tettnanger” with the belief that you’re getting a hop that carries the same oil, aroma and flavor profile as its noble namesake from Germany.

But you’d be wrong. The so-called “US Tettnanger,” according to Dr. Al Haunold, is actually Britain-born Fuggles. Al tried to correct the misnomer back in the late 1980s, but his call for truth in advertising and science fell on deaf and dumb ears, and the myth persists today.

Lets go back to the 1980s. Anheuser-Busch (AB) was importing German-grown Tettnanger hops, a landrace noble aroma hop which thrived in a small terroir in the Southwest region of Germany near the Lake Konstanz on the Switzerland and Austrian borders. AB wanted to free itself of dependence on Germany for Tettnanger, whose oil and alpha acids profile was similar to Saazer hops from the Czech Republic.

The German Tettnanger was an early maturing hop with lower yields and thus a relatively higher price. AB began to grow a hop in Northeast Idaho which they fobbed off as “US Tettnanger.”

Dr. Haunold propagated a small plot in Oregon and noticed a few oddities. First, Tettnang was supposed to be an early maturing hop with classic bronze and reddish coloration on the main stem near the side-arm branches. AB’s version matured slightly later and the relevant regions on the main stem were dark green.

Second, Tettnang was supposed to be high in farnesene (11%), but AB’s version was much lower (4%). Our Public Hopmeister ran the usual battery of tests and discovered that ratio of alpha to beta also did not fit the expected Tettnanger profile. Hmmm. Something’s fishy. This isn’t Tettnanger, Dr. Haunold concluded – it’s actually Fuggles.

At a conference in the mid 1980s, Al raised the discrepancy with an AB apparatchik, who promptly shut him down. Al recalls the exchange: “I pointed out from the agronomics and chemistry that a mistake had been made – it would be like calling a Chardonnay grape a Pinot noir. They told me they were going to continue to use the Tettnanger appellation anyway and I shouldn’t worry about it.”

Al wasn’t going to “worry” about it. Instead, he’d gotten busy making the real deal. In the early 1980s he crossed a female Tettnanger with a male that consisted of ½ Cascade and fractions of Brewers Gold and Early Green (an early and little known English aroma variety). His goal was to closely mimic Tettnanger, which he noted had a similar profile of Saazer – “Saazer and Tettnanger are nearly the same.”

Al had just put the finishing touches on his four Hallertauer Mittelfrueh progeny: Liberty, Mt. Hood, Crystal and Ultra. “I wanted to focus on the farnesene levels and develop a Tettnanger/Saaz mimic that would produce much higher yields,” noting that in Germany typical yields in the Tettnang region were around 5 - 6 bales (about 1200 lbs) per acre, well below the desired output of about 8 - 10 bales, a threshold level above which growers could actually earn a profit. .

Dr. Haunold met his markers in 1997 with the public release of “Santiam,” an aroma hop which he named after the nearby river which flowed from the Cascades mountains into the Willamette River. Santiam’s chemistry was close to Tettnanger, explained Dr. Haunold, “with an added bonus. Santiam had a slightly higher alpha content than Tettnanger [5 to 7% vs 4 to 5%], a similar cohumulone content [21 to 24], and much higher yields. From an aroma standpoint, it’s a very good substitute for Saazer and Tettnang. The big difference is price – Santiam can be grown economically in the US and sold for far less than imports, especially today when the dollar is so weak against the Euro.”

Unfortunately, today, very few hop merchants are contracting with US growers to plant Santiam. According to the BA survey of hop usage in 2009, brewers used only 249 pounds of Santiam, compared to 77,500 pounds for Saaz (CZ) and 3,230 pounds for Tettnanger (GR). It looks like the bigger crafties (think Boston Brewing) are content paying more for European imports on the image-driven premise, oddly enough, that Euro hops carry more panache than American varieties.

Meanwhile, the great bait ‘n switch continues. According to the BA survey, in 2009 crafties used 17,921 pounds of hops that were erroneously labeled as “US Tettnang,” which we’ve known since the mid 1980s are actually Fuggles. Note to Self: At Indie Hops, we need to remember to advertise “US Tettnanger” as really “Fuggles.”

Is Dr. Haunold upset about the perpetuation of this… er… fraud? Not exactly. He chalks up the misnomer to “benign neglect” but notes that were he a German grower from the Tettnang region he’d have a bone to pick. “That appellation is worth a lot of money – Tettnang. Fuggles is a great hop, but it doesn’t carry the same weight as Tettnang. Why they don’t pursue legal action to protect the Tettnang name is beyond me.”

So there you are. Why spend more for European Saaz and Tettnang hops when you can buy Santiam, which is nearly indistinguishable, has slightly more alpha and it can be grown locally? Indie Hops will put substantial acreage of Salmon-Safe Santiam in production this year with our Oregon farmers (the original test plots for Santiam were located in the former John I. Haas “Alluvial” hop yards which are now part of the Coleman farms).

We are pleased to help revive this unsung aroma hop hero --let the Santiam run free!

Feb 10, 2010

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