Brewing Firm Offers Hot Hop Tips to Washington Researchers

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Published on: May 20, 2013

Washington State University researchers working on finding optimal beer brewing qualities using Cascade variety hops are getting some help from Yakima's Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.

WSU has sent two students to the brewery to "discover what we at WSU were doing wrong in making beer," says Douglas Walsh, a researcher at WSU's Irrigated Agriculture Research and Extension Center in Prosser.

They researchers discovered that the university brewers were exposing their product to too much air, he reports.

Walsh says the affiliation with the national-brand brewery was launched when he discussed the possibility of working together following a meeting of the Hop Research Council hosted in January by Sierra Nevada. The brewery is located in the center of the Yakima, Wash., hops production area, which generates about 95% of the hops produced in the Pacific Northwest.

Washington State University researcher Ruth Henderson pours hops into a tank at Sierra Nevada Brewing Company as head pilot brewer Abe Kabakoff looks on.
Washington State University researcher Ruth Henderson pours hops into a tank at Sierra Nevada Brewing Company as head pilot brewer Abe Kabakoff looks on.

Oregon's Willamette Valley and Treasure Valley in Idaho are other major PNW hops growing regions.

About 23,000 acres of hops are produced in Washington, which claims to vendor 25% of all hops produced in the world. The state ranks second to Germany as a top hop source.

Researchers at the IAREC are looking into new ways to produce hops for better quality, investigating irrigation, plant nutrition and pest and disease management practices.

"For craft brewers, the quality element is extremely important, since their consumers truly appreciate the vital flavors that hops contribute to their brews," he says.

"Craft brewers use hops in new and innovative ways. Fortunately for Washington hop growers, hops are used in much greater quantities per barrel in many craft brews than in the lager-type brews from traditional large-scale brewers like Anheuser-Busch," he adds.

WSU hopes to be the research bridge between the brewer and Washington state hop growers in developing the production practices that help the grower deliver hops with the optimal properties desired by brewers," he says.