Dog Star Hops takes home coveted Chinook Cup for second year in a row

Michigan hop farms are recognized for excellence at the 2023 Michigan Great Beer State Conference & Trade Show.

Alec Mull of Founders Brewery awards the 2023 Chinook Cup to Jim Mikesell and Ken Porter of Dog Star Hops at the 2023 Michigan Great Beer State Conference & Trade Show. Photo by Life in Michigan.

One of the most prominent winter events in Michigan is the Michigan Great Beer State Conference and Trade Show, held in January each year. This year’s event was held at the Radisson Plaza Hotel in Kalamazoo, Michigan. The conference was presented by the Michigan Brewers Guild, Michigan State University Extension and Master Brewers Association of the Americas (MBAA)-District Michigan. It included presentations from experienced beer industry professionals from across the U.S. that covered all aspects of the craft beer value chain from raw material supply to brewery operations and more. One aspect of the conference that has generated increasing interest in recent years is the Michigan Chinook Cup competition.

The annual Chinook Cup competition is sponsored by the Hop Growers of Michigan and organized by Rose Stahl of Mr. Wizards Hops. Modeled after the national Cascade Cup, the Michigan Chinook Cup is awarded to the Great Beer State’s best Chinook hop grower as determined by a panel of expert craft brewers through a series of blind sensory tests.

This year, judges evaluated eight Chinook entries with scoring provided for aroma, appearance/color, and brewing values. The expert judges included Alec Mull, Jeremy Kosmicki, Adam Schmitt and Jason Vrosh from Founders Brewing Company; John Mallet, Andy Farrell, Paul Bashaw, Louwrens Wildschut and Derek Stepanski from Bell’s Brewery; John Stewart  from Perrin Brewing Co.; and Jeff Sheehan from Rockford Brewing Co. Alec Mull, vice president of brewing operations at Founders Brewing Co. and current president of the Hop Quality Group awarded the sixth annual Chinook Cup to Dog Star Hops. Second place was awarded to Top Hops Farm, and Bell’s Estate Hopyard was third.

The 2023 Chinook Cup winners:

2023 chinook cup podium graphic

For the second year in a row, Dog Star Hops will have their farm name engraved on the Chinook Cup and receive a Keepsake Cup to proudly display.

Michigan Chinook Cup hop sample.
Michigan Chinook Cup hop sample. Photo by Rob Sirrine, MSU Extension.
Judges evaluate hop samples.
Judges evaluate hop samples for the 2023 Michigan Chinook Cup. Photo by Rob Sirrine, MSU Extension.
A man presents another man with a trophy.
Sean Trowbridge, Top Hops Farm, accepts the runner-up trophy from Alec Mull. Photo by Life in Michigan.
A man presents a woman with a trophy.
Bonnie Steinman, Bell’s Estate Hopyard, accepts the third place trophy from Alec Mull. Photo by Life in Michigan.

Why Michigan Chinook hops?

Although there are over 100 different varieties of hops used by craft brewers across the U.S., the top three hops have consistently been Cascade, Centennial and Chinook. The Chinook hop, released in 1985, is the result of a cross between Petham Golding and a USDA male plant.

Chinook are a dual-purpose hop used for both bittering and aroma (see figure below). In their quest to brew standout flavorful beers, many craft brewers have become increasingly interested in newer proprietary varieties such as Simcoe and Citra. However, a small but growing number of brewers have begun to recognize that hops of the same variety, when grown in different locations with distinct soils and climate, impart different flavor profiles.

In contrast to Chinook grown in the Pacific Northwest that is generally known for its piney, spicy, dank attributes, Michigan Chinook is a cultivar that is increasingly recognized for its citrusy, clean profile.

Decorative image
Source: The Hop Aroma Compendium. A Flavor Guide. Volume 1.

Jeff Sheehan, head brewmaster at Rockford Brewing Co. and one of the 2023 Michigan Chinook Cup esteemed judges, has made a Chinook Harvest Ale at Rockford Brewing Co. for the last 10-plus years. In fact, Rockford Brewing Co. was the first Michigan brewery to produce a beer featuring the Pure Michigan stamp for using 100% Michigan ingredients back in 2013.

Last year, Rockford Brewing Co. committed to making a Chinook Harvest Ale from the previous year’s Michigan Chinook Cup champion. In fall 2023, their Chinook Harvest Ale will once again be made with Chinook hops from Dog Star Hops. To bring out the best aroma that Michigan Chinook has to offer, Sheehan coordinates closely with the winning hop grower to determine the optimum harvest date. Then the hops are picked and go into the beer within a couple of hours of harvest. It doesn’t get any fresher than that!

Please continue to visit Michigan State University Extension’s Hops website or the MSU Hops News Facebook page for up-to-date information.

Did you find this article useful?