Great Lakes EXPO Hop Session

The Great Lakes Expo Hops Session provided useful information for growers and processors and drew the largest hop crowd to date.

The Great Lakes Expo is the second largest specialty crop trade show in North America. The 2014 Hop Session featured the Director of Hop Growers of America, Ann George, Bradley Studer of Hopsteiner, as well as an expert panel of Michigan brewers. The session was moderated by MSU Integrated Pest Management Specialist, Erin Lizotte.

As in previous years, the session was standing room only. For those who were able to squeeze in, the session offered some key take home messages. First, Ann George provided an overview of the U.S. hop market and emphasized the importance of forward contracting. The craft beer sector continues to grow at an astounding rate (18 percent in 2013), and expectations are that it will account for 20 percent of beer market share by 2020. While the media is rife with stories about future hop shortages, George suggests that forward contracting can help both brewers and growers avoid any shortages.

Bradley Studer, who has decades of experience in the hop industry, emphasized the significance of quality from the field to the kettle. Not only are the best operations investing in quality control in the field, but perhaps more importantly in their post-harvest operations. Proper drying, curing, and baling are essential when producing top quality hops. Moreover, varietal purity, food safety and traceability will become increasingly imperative in the future.

Finally, a panel of experts, including George and Studer, discussed quality control from a brewers’ perspective. The other panelists included Scott Graham, Director of the Michigan Brewers Guild, Jake Brenner, Head Brewer at Grand Rapids Brewing Co., Alec Mull, Vice President of Brewery Operations at Founders Brewing Co., and Andy Farrell, Head Brewer at Bell’s Brewery. The panel suggested that Michigan growers have made great strides in growing higher quality hops. For example, Founders 2014 Harvest Ale included 80 percent Michigan Grown hops. The panel did note that there is room for improvement when it comes to post-harvest operations including drying and pelletizing and that for larger brewers the price of Michigan hops will need to be comparable to the Pacific Northwest for large scale purchases to become commonplace.

For more information about upcoming MSU programs, please continue to visit Michigan State University Extension hop webpage or the MSU Hops News Facebook site and stay tuned a new hops newsletter coming soon.

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