Hops and site selection...how far behind wine grapes?

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Brandon R
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Hops and site selection...how far behind wine grapes?

#1 Post by Brandon R » November 8th, 2018, 10:54 am

It was one of those times when I had a few minutes and was jonesing for a good, hoppy beer and I got to thinking. We all, as wine enthusiasts, know that vineyard site is just about the most important thing when it comes to producing a fine wine. Obviously, variety matters a great deal but making a world class Cabernet from To Kalon might be easier than making one from Cab grapes grown in Western Oregon (at least for now...but that's another disucssion).

It wasn't very long ago that beer had hops, and that was about it. At one point, there was virtually ZERO mention of hop varieties in a beer. Then, eventually, single-hop beers started to pop up. Now it seems they're as ubiquitous as ever. Amarillo hop this, Citra hop that.

When you think about where the beer industry is at now, though, that is still one step behind wine in a major way. The differentiation is currently only about variety. My question: when will beers evolve to being differentiated by site, beyond just hop variety? Will they ever get to that point? Or is there just not a noticeable enough difference between Citra hops grown in the Yakima Valley versus in Michigan? Is there even an appetite for that much specificity?

Anyway, it was a thought-provoking thing to me and I'm curious to hear what you all think.
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Re: Hops and site selection...how far behind wine grapes?

#2 Post by ClarkstonMark » November 8th, 2018, 10:59 am

From what I hear in Michigan, all the "desirable" hops cannot be grown because they are proprietary or something like that. So the hops industry in Michigan is really struggling because all they can produce is "undesirable" hops.

I guess my point is that hops are already there.
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Re: Hops and site selection...how far behind wine grapes?

#3 Post by Scott Tallman » November 8th, 2018, 1:50 pm

Interesting question. My yak’s palate has never noticed much of a difference between hops based on where they were grown, with two exceptions - Fremont’s organic hops from Cowiche Canyon and Citra hops in certain beers I tried in New Zealand.
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Re: Hops and site selection...how far behind wine grapes?

#4 Post by Brian G r a f s t r o m » November 8th, 2018, 4:43 pm

Also to consider: hops are merely an ingredient in beer. Wine is literally fermented grape juice. Put another way: I think grapes are much closer to the final product of wine than hops are to the final product of beer.

that said, on a related note: there *are* massive differences between hop varieties. It *would* be very interesting to try the same IPA, for example, using the same hop varieties, but with hops in sample A grown at site A, and hops in sample B grown at site B.
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