A Very Hoppy Valentine’s Day on Capitol Hill

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This Valentine’s Day, hops were in the air on Capitol Hill when staff from the Brewers Association’s (BA) Technical Resources department, along with brewers, hop growers, and hop suppliers from across the country joined the annual Hop Research Council (HRC) hop and brewing industry coalition hill climb in Washington, D.C.

The 2019 coalition was led by HRC co-technical director Bryan Thoet. Delegates from Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Colorado, Michigan, and Virginia attended meetings with agriculture and appropriations staff in the House and Senate to discuss funding for hops research programs and the USDA Agriculture Research Services, the Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act (H.R. 1175/S.362), labor issues, and funding for IR-4 Specialty Crops Project.

The hill climb kicked off with a Senate Bipartisan Small Brewers Caucus event hosted by the BA and HRC. Staff who attended were treated to a sensory experience by Alex Barth, the CEO of hop supplier John I. Haas. Alex brought five samples of hops, all with distinct characteristics:

  • Centennial
  • Citra®
  • Cascade
  • Willamette
  • HBC472 (an experimental hop with whiskey/oak attributes)

Barth, whose family has been in the hop industry for four generations gave an overview of the hop industry and how it has changed and grown over time, and shared insights into how hops are grown and how brewers choose which hops they purchase. Participants learned how to rub the hops to bring out the oils and complex aromas. The BA also provided the attendees with beer brands brewed with Citra®, Centennial, and Cascade hops so they could compare the tastes and smells.

Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) spoke about the work that Congress has done on behalf of hop growers

Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), who is co-chair of the caucus, was also in attendance. He spoke about the work that Congress has done on behalf of hop growers, including the amendment in the most recent Farm Bill that will encourage congress to consider funding for research to combat downy and powdery mildew, diseases that impact hop crops. Wyden also touched on the impact of the American hop growing industry on small and independent breweries.

“You can’t have big league breweries without big league hops, and the U.S. hop farmers grow big league hops!”

– Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR)

The BA and the 7,100+ small and independent breweries in the U.S. who have helped to create strong demand for new and existing hop varieties agree.

  • Thanks to the explosion of craft brewing across the country, the U.S. is the #1 producer of aroma hops in the world.
  • Brewers around the world are changing the way they brew beer, creating additional demand for aroma hops worldwide – in fact, 60% of U.S. grown hops are exported!
  • The BA’s investment in hop industry research and projects over just the last four years has totaled over $1.2 million, and ensures growers have access to the high quality, disease-resistant cultivars they need to sustain production, thereby backstopping the hop supply chain for brewers.
  • The U.S. hop and brewing industries currently support more than 360,000 American jobs.
  • The BA supports a healthy hop market, which includes:
    • A resilient hop supply
    • A wide variety of hops
    • Fair and sustainable hop prices