Northwest Brewing News October/November 2013 : Page 4

4 Northwest Brewing News October/November 2013 The New HOP Revolution The Secrets of Hop Breeding Revealed By Abram Goldman-Armstong op Breeding is a science, but it’s not white lab coats and Frankenstein-like bubbling bea-kers. Hop breeding actually has more in common with Rip Van Winkle than Frankenstein. Developing a new hop variety takes many years. Dr. John Henning who runs the USDA breeding program at Oregon State University in Corvallis, says from the initial cross to commercial release for general cultivation can take as little as seven or eight years, but more typically takes about 10-15 years before a new variety is released. their teeth, such as Willamette, Cascade, Mt. Hood, and Nugget. The USDA hop breeders once answered to the heads of the national brewers who doled out research grants, and determined the fate of newly developed hop variet-ies, often single handedly. When USDA hop breeders from Corvallis presented samples of the aroma hops Willamette and Columbia to Auggie Busch, scion of the Anheuser-Busch family in the 1970’s, he chose Willamette. Thousands of acres of Willamette were planted and it became the dominant American aroma hop. Columbia was never grown on a large scale. In the last decade, the national brewers got swal-lowed up by global brewers like so much light lager at a frat party. In recent years with craft brewers demanding new aroma varieties, Columbia is finally being grown on a larger scale. The Public Breeding Program The USDA research station in Corvallis began working with hops in the 1930’s to address disease needs, Henning says. The USDA breeding program started in the 1950’s. Henning has had two predecessors at OSU, notably Al Haunold who ran the USDA program at OSU from 1965-1996, developing 15 varieties, and working on an additional eight. Haunold released many of the varieties on which craft brewers cut Enter the Craft Beer Revolution Craft brewers not only revolutionized beer on the consumers end, but on the supply chain end as well. At first hop growers had little contact with the small brewers, either contracting with big brewers such as Anheuser-Busch who would buy an entire farm’s crop, or with brokers who then sold the hops on to brewers. The hop crisis in 2007 blew the hop market apart, as smaller brewers used to buying their hops on the spot market scrambled to get con-tracts. The major hop brokers were accused of price gouging, and many brewers opted to contract directly with hop farmers. There has been a change in the way hops are sold, Pat Leavy of Oregon Hop House says. “Now selling 30,000 pounds of organic hops takes days of talking to people.” Before “ I used to sell 100,000 pounds for four years with one phone call.” Leavy is currently transitioning his farm to fully organic, and has his own on-farm breeding program to develop hops that don’t need the chemical sprays and fungicides to survive. The conven-tional acreage he has left he sells to brokers. Jamie Floyd of Ninkasi shows off ripe New brokers have emerged since Cascades in the field at Sodbuster Farms. the hop crisis, including Oregon’s P HOTO BY A BRAM G OLDMAN -A RMSTRONG Indie Hops, which donated a million dollars to hop research at Oregon State University in 2010. (By the hop crisis of 2007, funding for hop breeding from the program operated by the USDA. The Hop major brewers had all-but dried up). Indie Hops is working with various departments in Quality Group, founded by craft brewers in 2011, including Sierra Nevada, New Glarus, the University to conduct research on hops, Russian River, Deschutes, Bell’s, O’Dell, not just in terms of agronomic traits, but New Belgium, Sam Adams, and Firestone funds studies on oil content and brewing Walker has stepped into the breach to fill trials, and started a public-private breeding the gap left when A-B Inbev axed its hop program with the school in 2009. Larger craft brewers, including Deschutes quality program. Growers too have stepped forward to assist with breeding programs, and Sierra Nevada have stepped up to fund and many host research plots on their land hop research, through the public breeding either for the USDA program or for private /22.,1*&#03;)25&#03;63(&,$/7< ,1*5(',(176" For your seasonal or special edition brews, we offer the world’s largest selections of herbs, spices & botanicals. 800.879.3337 www.mountainroseherbs.com

The New Hop Revolution: The Secrets Of Hop Breeding Revealed

Abram Goldman-Armstong

Hop Breeding is a science, but it’s not white lab coats and Frankenstein-like bubbling beakers. Hop breeding actually has more in common with Rip Van Winkle than Frankenstein. Developing a new hop variety takes many years.

Dr. John Henning who runs the USDA breeding program at Oregon State University in Corvallis, says from the initial cross to commercial release for general cultivation can take as little as seven or eight years, but more typically takes about 10-15 years before a new variety is released.

The Public Breeding Program

The USDA research station in Corvallis began working with hops in the 1930’s to address disease needs, Henning says. The USDA breeding program started in the 1950’s. Henning has had two predecessors at OSU, notably Al Haunold who ran the USDA program at OSU from 1965-1996, developing 15 varieties, and working on an additional eight. Haunold released many of the varieties on which craft brewers cut their teeth, such as Willamette, Cascade, Mt. Hood, and Nugget.

The USDA hop breeders once answered to the heads of the national brewers who doled out research grants, and determined the fate of newly developed hop varieties, often single handedly. When USDA hop breeders from Corvallis presented samples of the aroma hops Willamette and Columbia to Auggie Busch, scion of the Anheuser-Busch family in the 1970’s, he chose Willamette. Thousands of acres of Willamette were planted and it became the dominant American aroma hop. Columbia was never grown on a large scale. In the last decade, the national brewers got swallowed up by global brewers like so much light lager at a frat party. In recent years with craft brewers demanding new aroma varieties, Columbia is finally being grown on a larger scale.

Enter the Craft Beer Revolution

Craft brewers not only revolutionized beer on the consumers end, but on the supply chain end as well. At first hop growers had little contact with the small brewers, either contracting with big brewers such as Anheuser-Busch who would buy an entire farm’s crop, or with brokers who then sold the hops on to brewers. The hop crisis in 2007 blew the hop market apart, as smaller brewers used to buying their hops on the spot market scrambled to get contracts. The major hop brokers were accused of price gouging, and many brewers opted to contract directly with hop farmers.

There has been a change in the way hops are sold, Pat Leavy of Oregon Hop House says. “Now selling 30,000 pounds of organic hops takes days of talking to people.” Before “ I used to sell 100,000 pounds for four years with one phone call.” Leavy is currently transitioning his farm to fully organic, and has his own on-farm breeding program to develop hops that don’t need the chemical sprays and fungicides to survive. The conventional acreage he has left he sells to brokers.

New brokers have emerged since the hop crisis, including Oregon’s Indie Hops, which donated a million dollars to hop research at Oregon State University in 2010. (By the hop crisis of 2007, funding for hop breeding from the major brewers had all-but dried up). Indie Hops is working with various departments in the University to conduct research on hops, not just in terms of agronomic traits, but funds studies on oil content and brewing trials, and started a public-private breeding program with the school in 2009.

Larger craft brewers, including Deschutes and Sierra Nevada have stepped up to fund hop research, through the public breeding program operated by the USDA. The Hop Quality Group, founded by craft brewers in 2011, including Sierra Nevada, New Glarus, Russian River, Deschutes, Bell’s, O’Dell, New Belgium, Sam Adams, and Firestone Walker has stepped into the breach to fill the gap left when A-B Inbev axed its hop quality program. Growers too have stepped forward to assist with breeding programs, and many host research plots on their land either for the USDA program or for private breeding firms.

“The growers are really stepping in and helping out,” says the USDA’s Henning. “In an era of reduced federal funds and reduced grants, we’ve actually been able to expand—thanks to input from the growers. There are trials in Washington and Idaho as well as in Oregon, thanks to growers who have volunteered to help the public breeding program. It’s a change in how I’m doing breeding. Instead of doing it all on the farm at the OSU research station, I am working with growers to increase the amount of seedlings I can plant out. Instead of 10-15,000 seedlings I can grow 80,000 to 100,000.

Private hop breeding firms, which starting gaining momentum in the 1990’s have come up with some of the most sought after new varieties in recent years. Select Botanicals Group, formerly Yakima Chief, for instance has been knocking it out of the ballpark with new varieties such as Citra and Mosaic. The company has joined forces with John I. Haas to form the Hop Breeding Company. The new private firms have focused not only on high-yielding, disease resistant hops for growers, but also on producing hops with unique flavors and aromas for brewers.

Perrault says he focuses on “breeding varieties that are agronomically efficient and have good character for brewers.”

Though Henning says the main impetus for the USDA program is disease resistance, the rise of the private breeders has “put some pressure on the USDA to keep up” and focus on other areas as well. He stresses that disease resistance is also important to brewers.

“Brewers are just as interested in disease resistance as aromas. There is public pressure on brewers to make sure their hops are not loaded with pesticides, as is the case with varieties that are not disease resistant.”

How the Process Works

Hop breeding is very complicated, as crossing two hop plants does not necessarily result in a new hop with the same traits as the parent. Each cross between two hop plants yields hundreds or thousands of seeds, each one unique. With “separate male and female plants that are genetically complex it is difficult to select traits,” says Jason Perrault of Select Botanicals.

“Hops are like people,” says Leavy of the Oregon Hop House, “each one is different.”

Jim Solberg, founder of Indie Hops agrees. “Just like with people, some couples have kids that look just like a chip off the old block, others have kids who look nothing like either parent.”

Open pollinated hops are an even bigger mystery, as the male parent is an unknown quantity. In order to get specific crosses, breeders take pollen from a specific male plant and spread it on the side-arms of a female plant during a 1-2 week period in July when the flowers will accept pollen, Solberg explains. The arm is then covered with a wrapper, which he says is “kind of like a French bread wrapper.” That sidearm will produce seeded cones. The next winter the seeds are started in a greenhouse. From one cross you might end up with 4-500 seedlings. The seedlings are inoculated with common hop diseases, including downy mildew, the major scourge of Willamette Valley hops. Solberg says they plant out anything that shows reasonable disease resistance.

The USDA breeding program has stations at OSU, and at Washington State University in Prosser, and also works with hop growers in Idaho to get field trials in all three states. Now the seedlings are planted out in a system known as “pot-inpot.” Fred Geschwill of F&B Farms in Woodburn, Oregon, who operates a container plant nursery as well as growing hops, developed the pot-in-pot system.

“We wanted to generate superior first year seedlings,” says Henning. Wi th the pot-in-pot system and low trellis he is now able to look at 6000 seedlings on one acre, rather than on six acres.

The system speeds up planting, explains Doug Weathers of Sodbuster Farms in Salem, Oregon who works with Select Botanical Group to trial some of its experimental crosses. The small pots are planted in a larger pot, which is under trellis on drip irrigation. If one plant doesn’t make it or is culled from the program a new small pot can be planted in its place without any digging.

After the initial planting in the pot-in-pot system the plants are evaluated for vigor, disease resistance, and other agronomic characteristics. Of the 6,000 Henning chooses “1000 top notch female seedlings” to plant into field trials.

“I think of them as lottery tickets,” Leavy of Oregon Hop House says of hop seedlings. Some are worthless; others show promise and could be the next big thing.

In the field trial stage any plants that look promising have their cones picked, dried and evaluated. Hops are “rubbed;” crushed between the hands and smelled, to get the aromas, as well as tested for alpha acid (bittering) and oils (aroma and flavor compounds).

At Indie Hops they go one step further Solberg and former Bridgeport brewer Matt Sage “dry hop” a neutral base beer in a French press, “to see how they work in beer.” Hops that show promise are planted out in rows, and with the next year’s harvest brewing trials can begin with the hops.

Before a new public variety can be released, says Henning, “it must be screened by the National Clean Plant Network in Prosser, Washington, to make certain the plant is free of all virus and viroid type diseases. The NCPN will then release a few rhizomes or cuttings, and the farmer who gets them is responsible for making certain that they increase, and will distribute them to other farmers.”

Hops from the private breeding programs can be licensed to other growers, who pay a royalty to the company that developed them. The royalties from the Indie Hops breeding program will go to Oregon State University to continue to fund the hop-breeding program there.

Discovered Hops

Every once in a while it’s not the breeding program that develops a great new hop, but rather an accidental cross made be nature. Despite hop growers’ best intentions to keep male plants out of their fields, occasionally one sneaks in pollinates the ladies, and a seedling sprouts. These upstarts are usually culled from between the rows, but from time to time the farmers opt to keep them. Such was the case with Amarillo, discovered on the Gamache hop farm in Yakima, the hop plant had good vigor, and so they left it in. Upon harvest the hops had an intense resiny citrus character, and after their release they have become quite the sought after hop, bursting onto the beer scene at the beginning of the millennium in beers such as Rogue’s Charlie 1981.

Meridian, too, a new hop launched by Indie Hops in 2012, and grown at Goschie Farms in Oregon, was originally thought to be Columbia, the all-but forgotten sister hop of Willamette. It wasn’t until harvest when they smelled the hop in the drying room that they realized it was something unique. Lab analysis confirmed it, and Meridian was born, it has made a splash in the brewing scene with its lemon and peach like aromas.

Found hops are definitely not the norm, but these two examples show how sometimes Mother Nature can do just as good a job of breeding as all the carefully controlled crosses made by breeders.

Genetic Work with Hops

Geneticists are currently working to identify markers in the hops, which determine disease resistance characteristics as well as plant sex, and flavor characteristics. This will speed up the breeding process, as they will be able to look at a seedling in a lab and determine if it show promise rather than having to plant it out in the field. German scientists have even experimented with GMO hops, though no field trials have yet been done with GM hops, and work is not currently being done to genetically modify hops in the US. For now breeding hops still involves, sun, soil, water, French bread wrappers, a little bit of luck, and a whole lot of patience.

Read the full article at http://mydigitalpublication.com/article/The+New+Hop+Revolution%3A+The+Secrets+Of+Hop+Breeding+Revealed/1526874/178169/article.html.

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