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The Brewstorian
May 20, 2014 7:18 AM   Subscribe

"With over 200 breweries, Oregon is often considered the craft beer capital of America. Beer geeks and casual drinkers across the country can also thank the state’s farmers for their brews: hops, the essential ingredient that gives beer its bitter flavor, is a rare crop throughout the U.S. but not in Oregon. Last year, Oregon State University established the Oregon Hops & Brewing Archives (OHBA), the first archive in the U.S., dedicated to preserving and telling the intertwined story of hop and beer production and the craft brewing movement. They're posting materials from their collection to Tumblr, Flickr and Zotero.
posted by zarq (31 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite

I have in front of me the Barth-Haas Hops Companion (2nd Edition) which gives alpha acids, beta acids, aroma notes, etc. on just about every hop variety there is (aside from a few proprietary strains) as well as pedigree, which is probably the coolest thing. For example, Northern Brewer comes from Caterbury Golding crossed with male seedlings of Brewers Gold.

I don't know anything about hops really but it's enjoyable to flip through this book and look at lineages.
posted by shakespeherian at 7:57 AM on May 20

It makes sense that OSU should do this because OSU is the state's cow college. The School of Agriculture is one of the biggest in the university.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 8:02 AM on May 20

New York is catching up on breweries and the once-thriving hop industry is slowly being revived. Watch your back, Oregon!
posted by tommasz at 8:07 AM on May 20 [2 favorites]

Call it hipster, call it hippie, call it what you will, I think this movement in America and elsewhere back to locally made, artisanal stuff is pretty awesome.
posted by ChuckRamone at 8:09 AM on May 20 [1 favorite]

Chocolate Pickle: "It makes sense that OSU should do this because OSU is the state's cow college. The School of Agriculture is one of the biggest in the university."

So is the College of Engineering. The real surprise, IMO, is that there's a Fermentation Sciences program, instead of like banning alcohol from campus entirely. To the best of my knowledge, even among Ag Schools, there's are very few that offer brewing as a degree option.
posted by pwnguin at 8:38 AM on May 20 [1 favorite]

Hops are nice and all, but they're a relatively recent innovation in the millennia-old tradition of grain-based brewing. I wish more craft brewers would use flavors other than hops, especially now that modern sanitization, refrigeration, and bottling methods reduce the need for reliance on the preservative effect of hops. Bring on the gruits!
posted by jedicus at 8:40 AM on May 20 [4 favorites]

Oh man, back when I had a motorcycle, the best rides were on 99E between Portland and Salem; So. Much. Hops. Certain times of the summer, the aroma as you rode past was super intense, and really refreshing.

As a home-brewer, I really wish these hop farms would release more of their experimental hops, and small producing plots of oldschool hops to the homebrew market. I've got a pretty solid Pale recipe that works well with just about any single hop, and we brew up little 1 gallon batches just to taste them…*sigh* so many beers, so little time.

Bring on the gruits!

You might be interested in this particular slice of the internet. Get yer homebrew on, and make some…they can be quite tasty.
posted by furnace.heart at 8:45 AM on May 20 [1 favorite]

Damn, I was so tempted to post inb4gruit when this post when up.

To add on to what tommasz wrote, we're starting to grow hops on the east end of Long Island now, which is pretty great. There are a ton of new breweries--some good, some let's-give-them-time--and it would be neat for them to be able to use local hops.
posted by uncleozzy at 8:47 AM on May 20 [2 favorites]

Get yer homebrew on, and make some…they can be quite tasty.

We do! Just yesterday we got the grain and yeast in for a reconstructed late medieval English ale, the kind that women would make on a weekly basis for home consumption. It's low gravity (no sparging or multiple decoction, wort is unboiled), uses a mix of malt and oats, has no adjuncts, and is intended to be drunk fresh (i.e. within 3-4 days of brewing, otherwise it will go sour on you). Very, very different from modern beer.
posted by jedicus at 8:55 AM on May 20 [3 favorites]

Paging Sam Calagione.
posted by shakespeherian at 9:07 AM on May 20

Just yesterday we got the grain and yeast in for a reconstructed late medieval English ale

Have you actually brewed it before? I've been brewing 1-gallon brew-in-a-bag batches for kicks lately, and that's low-effort (and cheap) enough that I'd give it a shot, if only to weird my friends out with beer-that's-not-beer.
posted by uncleozzy at 9:21 AM on May 20

Last October the SO and I went to the SINGLE, FRESH, WET & WILD Brewfest at Sierra Nevada. The requirements for the fifty or so brewers in attendance was that they had to pour at least one single hop, fresh hop, wet hop, or wild hop beer. The amazing variety of creative hop usage left me dumbfounded. I don't remember who brought it somebody brought a pale that used hops that they hand picked from somewhere in Mexico (!) that grew wild. And the whole event was held in Sierra's hopfield. Good times.
posted by Big_B at 9:21 AM on May 20

I designed a funky deck for a military pub in downtown Halifax Nova Scotia a few years ago, and as the clients didn't want the public seeing all these officers in uniform drinking, they had asked for a privacy screen around it. I decided to use a growing, green wall rather than something solid, and what better choice of plant for a pub than hops? Foolishly, It hadn't occurred to me until after the hops were planted that some people are very allergic to the flowers. So for a while I was envisioning this darkly comic scenario where the hops would make all these retired generals and admirals sick... but in the end the wall of hops grew in very nicely and there haven't been any complaints.
posted by Flashman at 9:25 AM on May 20

The project's coordinator, Tiah Edmunson-Morten (who doesn't even really drink much beer! sigh and alas), was on Think Out Loud last month talking about the project.
posted by Lutoslawski at 9:34 AM on May 20 [1 favorite]

I am compelled to defend my Uncle Ray who was not a brewer but a farmer in eastern Washington State in the Yakima valley, our near Toppenish, who grew asparagus out front, hops on the side and corn out back. He had a hand painted sign at the end of his quarter mile long dusty flat driveway that said "Speed Limit 10 MPH." When I asked him - me being maybe eight years old - he said because it raises the dust and then the spiders get on the hops. This was in the late sixties.

Uncle Ray died some years after they took a 35 pound liver tumor out of him but Aunt Cleo - a tickler - who sounds exactly like Johnny Cash- still owns the farm. She leases the land now and out front they grow mint instead of aspagagus, which she hates. She says it makes her nose plugged.

Toppenish and Moxee City became major market centers and have remained so to the present day. Production increase was steady from 1,129 acres in 1920 to 4,600 acres in 1940 and 32,000 today.

Anyway, anyone who contributes to making beer no matter how or where is great in my book.
posted by vapidave at 9:37 AM on May 20 [3 favorites]

In related news, "Hops deficit threatens Swedish hipster beers."
posted by effbot at 9:43 AM on May 20

There's a bit in the marvelous The History of the World in Six Glasses where Standage talks about a non-hopped beer that ferments in tree stumps. I was intrigued, though I don't recall if a specific tree is required.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 9:48 AM on May 20

217 in Colorado!
posted by craven_morhead at 10:21 AM on May 20 [3 favorites]

Have you actually brewed it before?

No, this will be our first go-round with that particular recipe. I recommend giving all-grain brewing a try sometime, though, no matter what recipe you use.
posted by jedicus at 11:08 AM on May 20

I recommend giving all-grain brewing a try sometime, though

I have been... just by brewing in a bag rather than with a proper mash tun. It really couldn't be a whole lot easier, and I can achieve 70% efficiency without too much effort. I could try to do better, but an extra half-pound of grain here and there isn't going to break the bank. I actually just bottled a gallon of ESB that was my first brew back after a 4-year hiatus. Good times.
posted by uncleozzy at 11:22 AM on May 20 [1 favorite]

asparagus out front, hops on the side and corn out back

this sounds like a hair style the Jolly Green Giant wore in the 80s.
posted by echocollate at 11:58 AM on May 20 [4 favorites]

Continuing the beer without hops discussion, I recall a MeFi meetup at a Gruit Ale contest, which I regretfully missed out on. But yeah, I love hops. Last month I built an arbor for my backyard Cascades vines, and a few days ago I had my first taste of On the Wings of Armageddon, a delicious nectar of fermented hops and malt. /drool
posted by exogenous at 12:16 PM on May 20

200 Breweries? I am not impressed, especially not by American Beer ...

... in the Beginning of the 19th Century there were around 30.000 Breweries in Bavaria - currently there are 622 left ...

This includes many global Brands like Löwenbräu, Augustiner, Paulaner and Erdinger Weißbier. Not to mention the Oktoberfest ...

Overall there are over 1.200 Breweries in Germany.

Most German Breweries still follow the Reinheitsgebot from 23 April 1516.

"The law originated on 30 November 1487, when Albert IV, Duke of Bavaria promulgated it, specifying three ingredients – water, malt and hops – for the brewing of beer. Later, in the city of Ingolstadt in the duchy of Bavaria on 23 April 1516, two other dukes endorsed the law as one to be followed in their duchies, adding standards for the sale of beer."
posted by homodigitalis at 12:23 PM on May 20

Then try harder to find some decent American beer or better yet come visit, as many beer styles don't travel well, fresh hoppy IPAs in particular. Would you like that Americans judge German beers by the Beck's we get here? I don't think so. By the way, per capital, Oregon (population ~4 million) has about the same number of breweries as Bavaria (population ~12 million).
posted by exogenous at 12:34 PM on May 20 [6 favorites]

em>200 Breweries? I am not impressed, especially not by American Beer ...

That's 200 breweries in a state of under 4 million people. Germany would need over 4000 breweries to match the breweries per capita.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 1:46 PM on May 20

I just want to say that as a Person of German ancestry, who used to live in Oregon, but now lives in Seattle, I'm glad that the Ninkasi brewery exists. That is all.
posted by Windopaene at 2:22 PM on May 20

> 200 Breweries? I am not impressed, especially not by American Beer ...

This is the map of breweries in the city of Portland, OR. A city with a population of around 600,000 people. They aren't all brewing Budweiser. You have to try hard to not be within walking distance of atleast one brewery in the inner Portland area, let alone multiple ones.
posted by mrzarquon at 10:23 PM on May 20 [1 favorite]

Bring on the gruits!

You should've been at Borefts last year, where this was the theme with several Dutch breweries recreating medieval beer recipes.
posted by MartinWisse at 12:50 AM on May 21 [1 favorite]

Most German Breweries still follow the Reinheitsgebot from 23 April 1516.

Rye beers are awesome; a good oatmeal stout is a thing of beauty; just try and find something that goes better with cheese souffles than milk stouts; chili beers can be awesome especially when they've got chocolate; chocolate beers are awesome especially when they have chili; a well done framboise or kriek is a work of art; bull testicle beer was eh.

Reinheitsgebot served a couple of valuable functions, mainly tax collecting and consumer protection, but there is one very good reason to add adjuncts, fruits, or spices to beer, they can make it taste better. Some of them have a history dating way further back than 1516.

In the end, you should drink what you want, but Reinheistgebot isn't a very good metric for judging if a beer is tasty or not.
posted by Gygesringtone at 6:32 AM on May 21 [4 favorites]

But your typical, supermarket German beer is vastly better than its American equivalent. I'd trust the Reinheitsgebot over the Framboisegebot or Testiclegebot any day.
posted by Flashman at 8:41 PM on May 21

But your typical, supermarket German beer is vastly better than its American equivalent. I'd trust the Reinheitsgebot over the Framboisegebot or Testiclegebot any day.

I think that by and large depends on the supermarket you happen to be in. I'm not going to say that you should buy and drink American Lager (unless you like it), but I do have to point out that the people who produce it are skilled brewers, and several of the biggest breakthroughs in brewing technology came from those companies. Also, depending on which of those German beers you're talking about, they may be owned by the same company that owns the American beer sitting on the shelf next to it. Spaten, Becks, Lowenbrau, and Hasseröder are owned by the same conglomerate that owns Budweiser and Michelob.

I get where you're coming from, mass produced beer doesn't (usually) taste good to me either, and I try to avoid it as best I can. And hell, given that craft brew only accounts for ~8% of the total production in the US, I'd say that judging American beer by the mass produced stuff is pretty justified. The reasons for Americans (in aggregate) favoring that type of beer have absolutely nothing to do with lack of Reinheitsgebot, and many great beer traditions couldn't exist if those regulations were universal. You're missing out on a lot if you're using those laws as your starting point for what beer is worth drinking. I'm not saying that's what you, Flashman, are doing, but that seems to be what the comment I was responding was advocating.

One final thought, when in talking about "vastly better" beer, we're almost always talking about a subjective opinion. For example, Coors is a well made beer, there's no obvious flaws (and believe me, with this style they'd be obvious) in the beer from the brewing process (like off flavors from bacterial infections, old hops or fermenting at the wrong temp.). They've also gone to great lengths to make sure that the stuff people are selling is fresh, so it always tastes like the people who drink Coors like. If anything, Coors has better quality control than smaller breweries can afford. So, Coors isn't worse in that regard, it just tastes different than what you or I want.
posted by Gygesringtone at 6:15 AM on May 22 [2 favorites]

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