Month: May 2016
Cluster hops are one of the oldest varieties grown and used commercially in the US. Originally bred from a European hop brought by early settlers and a native North American hop, Cluster has mostly fallen out of favor in the brewing industry, partially due to the increased demand for high-alpha types typically used for bittering IPAs and other hop-forward bitter ales. Until the late 1970s however, most of the hop acreage in the US was dedicated to growing Cluster, initially in New York state, and eventually in dry central Washington state. Cluster is fairly resistant to disease, but is susceptible to mildew and does not produce in as high of volume as many hops currently selected for market.
Water, hops, yeast, and barley: essential elements of beer. We talk nearly nonstop about hops here in the Pacific Northwest, and for good reason. The Yakima Valley growing region supplies 77% of America’s hops and exports two-thirds of their total product globally. But we tend to forget that the Northwest is also a fruitful agricultural center for barley. Washington state ranks fourth in the nation for total production, and the WSU Barley Breeding Program is an ongoing testament to a strong focus on development. Notably, wheat has also been bred at WSU for over a hundred years. It’s evident we have a strong local commitment to growing quality cereal grains. While only 4% of the barley grown here is destined for the malt house, the Washington Grain Commission estimates that most craft brewers use 3.4% more barley per pint than macro breweries. At 25 pounds (or more) dry malted grain needed per keg (that’s half a barrel; about 120 pints), this adds up quickly, especially for production craft breweries who might brew 20-90 barrels at a time, multiple times per week and/or day. After the mashing process, when all possible malt sugars are extracted and drained away, the hydrated malt is removed from the mash tun and disposed of in various ways. For obvious reasons, it can become extremely tedious and expensive to merely shovel this spent grain in the dumpster. Municipal waste retrieval has limits, even for large food and beverage production companies. And more importantly, spent grain still has value in other uses.