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Hopsteiner’s Bill Elkins on the 2016 Hop Harvest, Growing Challenges & the Industries Next Big Thing

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Hop Fields with Rainbow

Hopsteiner is one of the Yakima Valley’s largest hop growing operations. First incorporated in 1845, this sixth generation growing, trading, breeding and processing firm continues to innovate and improve. Like any farmed produce, with hops there are seasonal differences and constant challenges from rain to pests and even fires, like the huge one back in 2006 that destroyed 4% of the nations hops. Today more than ever, hop farmers must remain on the cutting edge, with brewers constantly seeking the next trendy hop and new flavor that will transform their beer. Right now the name of the game is tropical fruit-flavored hops, but what will be next? And what are this year’s exciting new varietals? Smack dab in the middle of this year’s hop harvest, I talked to Bill Elkins, Hopsteiner’s Craft Brewery Account Manager for the Western United States and Canada about all of these things.

 


How would you describe the 2016 Hop Harvest season–ups and downs, challenges or changes from past years?

Bill Elkins: It’s been a very good growing season with normal temps and ample water. All-in-all it’s shaping up to be one of the better seasons in recent memory.

What is your most popular hop?

Our newer varieties such as Lemondrop, Denali, Calypso, and Eureka! continue to be in great demand. Bravo is also one of the more popular “workhorse” varieties we offer.

 

Pile of Denali Hops

Pile of Denali Hops

What new varieties are you trying out?

Experimental varieties identified by number at this time show good promise from an agronomic and brewing standpoint. Some with berry and fruit notes, others with orange/vanilla and Super Cascade-like qualities.

How do you decide what hops to plant, how many acres, etc.?

Market demand from the brewing community drives the planting decision. We aim to give the brewer what he wants in traditional as well as new hops.

Are certain varieties more difficult to grow than others? examples?

Some hops are better yielding, some are more “grower friendly” in that they are naturally disease resistant. All varieties act differently from farm-to-farm and region-to-region. Our growers are the best at working with their specific plantings and delivering a quality crop each year.

Are there any new hops coming out this year or further down the line that your excited about?

Denali is the newest hop this year. This hop is popular with brewers who are looking for a distinct, impactful flavor in their beers. Denali has an unusually high total essential oil content, averaging more than 4 grams oil/100 grams of raw hops. It has a big aroma that imparts pineapple with notes of citrus and pine.

Who are your biggest clients?

We supply virtually all brewers – large and small and everywhere in between throughout the world.

Denali Hops growing at the Hopsteiner Farms

Denali Hops growing at the Hopsteiner Farms

How many acres of hops does Hopsteiner have?

We are one of the largest producers and processors of hops in the world.  Our acreage numbers are confidential.

What are the current and foreseeable challenges for hop growers?

Labor, water, pests and disease are all challenges hop growers face now and into the future. As stewards of the land and the environment, growers work hard every day to use their resources to their maximum while leaving as small a footprint as possible.

 

freshhops-3-772-x-6-052

 

Founder of The New School and most frequent contributor Ezra Johnson-Greenough has worked in the craft beer industry for almost 10 years, doing everything from illustrating beer labels to bartending at renowned beer bars and breweries like Belmont Station, Apex, Laurelwood and Upright Brewing. He has also had a hand in creating events like the Portland Fruit Beer Festival, Portland Beer Week, and the Brewing up Cocktails series. He is available for freelance consultation in marketing, events, graphic design and branding. Contact: [email protected]

9 Comments

  1. Jeff Alworth

    September 13, 2016 at 2:41 pm

    Wow, that was an incredibly evasive interview stuffed with meaningless corporatese. You’d think he was running for Congress, not selling a benign and beloved crop like hops. Bizarre.

    • Leslie Chasse

      September 13, 2016 at 4:53 pm

      You know, all a guy has to do is Google Earth to see how many acres.

      I have to agree Jeff, I don’t know that I would have published this interview. However, it came to me via Hopsteiner Facebook post. They seem quite happy with it. I’m guessing the Corporate world of HOPS must be fairly cutthroat and competitive.

      I will say though that I enjoyed the video.

      • Samurai Artist

        September 13, 2016 at 8:00 pm

        Google Earth tells you who owns what land and hop farms?

  2. Leslie Chasse

    September 13, 2016 at 9:59 pm

    Clearly not. But with a little research, the numbers could sure be ball parked. That is, for anyone who really wanted to know.

    • Samurai Artist

      September 14, 2016 at 6:45 pm

      there are many hop farms in Yakima, how could you possibly know who’s is who’s? Not to mention some have fields in multiple locations.

  3. BeerMe

    September 14, 2016 at 3:54 pm

    Really looking forward to trying the Denail hops! Haven’t had any beers with Denail hops yet, but The other Hopsteiner hops I’ve had have been pretty killer. Lemon drop is one of the most exciting hops to come out in recent memory IMO

  4. USA Pro Brewer

    September 14, 2016 at 6:23 pm

    The first guy’s comment is incredibly rude, what a jerk. Why is everyone so hung up on acres? A hop acreage estimate report, and than actual crop harvest results are published every year by the USDA for the public. I’ve been buying awesome quality hops from Hopsteiner for over 13 years, very good people, very good product.

    http://www.hopsteiner.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/08-12-15-USDA-crop-estimate.pdf

    – Jbone, NE Craft Brewer

  5. Leslie Chasse

    September 14, 2016 at 7:12 pm

    Public records.

    I didn’t say it would be easy. I said, that for anyone with the desire it could be done.

    I have to ask why you feel such a need to be this defensive? I mean, if I am so far off base, why even bother with me? If it doesn’t really matter, don’t you have other things more important to attend too?

    Seriously? What’s the big deal?

    • Samurai Artist

      September 16, 2016 at 10:11 pm

      I dont know its odd to comment that the interview wasnt worth publishing and then suggest it’s easily done. You certainly did not say anyone with a desire could find it, you said all you have to do is google earth it. Far more difficult to start going through public records. So your comment seemed unnecessarily attacking and thus I felt necessitated a response. Commenting and talking with the readers is of high priority for me actually.

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