Minnesota's Craft Brewers Are Warming to Minnesota-Grown Hops

Minnesota's Craft Brewers Are Warming to Minnesota-Grown Hops Main Photo

13 Jan 2020

Area Business

This article  "Do Minnesota-grown hops have a particular terroir? Local brewers think so" first appeared in the Star Tribune http://m.startribune.com/local-brewers-look-to-minnesota-hops/566814492/

Terroir is a term that most drinkers would associate with wine.

It refers to the unique flavors brought about by the climatic and soil conditions where grapes are grown and the expression of those flavors in a finished wine. But can the term also apply to beer? An up-and-coming Minnesota hop industry is aiming to find out. Like grapes, the character of hops is highly subject to the place where they are grown. The amount of bittering acids and the types of oils responsible for the fruity, spicy and herbal flavors that IPA lovers adore differ from region to region and even field to field. German hop growers say that the same variety of hops grown in one field is different from those grown across the street.

So do Minnesota-grown hops have a particular terroir? Eric Sannerud, CEO of Mighty Axe Hops in Foley, Minn., thinks they do. At 80 acres, Mighty Axe is the largest grower in the state.

“What I have experienced in the beers that our hops have gone into is that there is a more prevalent orange flavor across the board,” he says. “Strictly looking at analysis of oil content, they tend to be much higher in myrcene [the aroma] than West Coast hops. Myrcene is a component that can create hoppiness, pineyness, grassiness.”

But not all varieties are the same. Some have more pineapple character than their West Coast counterparts. “There is not going to be one rule across the board. Each hop is going to interact with terroir in a different way because it has a different set of genetics and a different way of expressing itself.”

There are currently around 60 commercial hop growers in Minnesota, according to John Brach, president of the Minnesota Hop Growers Association (MHGA) and grower at Stone Hill Farm in Stillwater. Together they have an estimated 120 acres in production.

Minnesota hop growers face many unique challenges. “One of the largest challenges that growers face is selecting the proper varieties that perform well in our climatically distinct region,” says Joshua Havill, MHGA vice president. The growing season is short. Minnesota’s fertile but heavy soil retains water, a problem exacerbated by higher rainfall totals relative to other hop-growing regions. Hops don’t like wet feet.

“Another issue is that we cannot grow the sexy proprietary varieties that brewers want,” Brach said. Some hop varieties are developed publicly by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. These can be grown by anyone free of charge.

<Read the full article at http://m.startribune.com/local-brewers-look-to-minnesota-hops/566814492/>