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READING TIME - 5 MIN

The Hop Graveyard: Preserving Aromatics with a Living Hop Record

 

At Abstrax Hops, we’re creating a living hop record to protect the beer industry and preserve beloved hop aromatics.

When you imagine a “hop graveyard,” the image it evokes can be quite ominous. Unfortunately, the reality isn’t that far off. When we talk about the hop graveyard, we’re referring to the many hop varietals that are endangered or have gone completely extinct. 

This can happen to hop varietals for many reasons (lack of demand, disease, etc.). For example, California Cluster hops nearly went extinct in the 1950s as a result of black root rot. While similar varietals were created via cross-pollination, not every varietal that becomes endangered makes a comeback. 

Does that mean the flavors and aromas from those plants are lost forever? Not necessarily. Learn how the creation of Optimized Hop Extracts helps develop a living hop record that protects and preserves beloved hop aromatics. 

What is the “Hop Graveyard?”

Different beer styles have become less common or have even become “lost” over time as a result of economic hardship, changes in consumer preferences, etc. For example, few brewers have the time or brewing space for long-aged beers like vatted old ales. Combine that with evolving brewing methods, war, and the rising demand for lagers at the turn of the 20th century, and vatted ales were no longer practical. 

It’s important to note, however, that a lost beer style might not be lost forever. If brewers really want to, they can revive the techniques required for certain beer styles. However, once actual hop varietals go extinct, those unique flavors and aromatics are lost forever. Hence, the hop graveyard.

 

How Do Hops Go Extinct?

Historically, consumer preference and profitability have always greatly impacted the varieties that farmers choose to grow. If demand for certain aromas and flavors declines, brewers are less likely to purchase those hop varieties. Conversely, others require more resources to grow, which makes them more expensive and can cut into profits.

It’s also important to remember that certain events can have a big impact on hop cultivation. We’re talking about things like import and export taxes, political conflicts, and even recent events like COVID-19.

Erica Lorentz, a fourth-generation Oregon hop farmer and president of Lakeside Ranches and Sodbuster Farms, said in an interview, “A few years ago, when craft brewers were shut down and people weren’t able to go in and enjoy those pints, we still harvested hops and a lot of those hops sat. So, we’re feeling the ripple effects of years prior of hop inventory that’s still sitting there unused.”

That might not immediately sound like a problem, but it can affect the amount and type of hops that farmers choose to grow in the near future. For example, the 2022 Hop Growers of America statistical report showcased the top 10 Pacific Northwest hop varieties by acreage between 2017 and 2022. Some varieties have maintained high acreage (Citra, Cascade, etc.), new varietals made the list in 2020 (El Dorado), and others fell off the list completely (Apollo, Summit, etc.).

While there are complex variables that influence which varieties farmers choose to grow, the fact remains that the risk of a variety becoming endangered increases as fewer farmers decide to grow them.

However, things like climate change can negatively impact the cultivation of hops even when there’s still high demand. Between reduced soil moisture from rising temperatures, droughts, and even pests and diseases, climate change may permanently impact the hop industry.

Year Over Year Hop Consistency

Even without the addition of climate change, maintaining the consistency of many plants is difficult due to the volatile nature of aromatic compounds. Even slight changes in soil quality, water, and farming techniques can impact the final aroma and flavor of hops. 

It helps if you think about wine terms like terroir and vintage. The former refers to qualities associated with a particular region, while the latter refers to a specific year. Different wine vintages made from the same grapes may have slightly different characteristics as a result of slight weather changes from year to year. In the past, terroir was considered a bit more static. 

Climate change, however, is impacting the flavor, aroma, and even textural characteristics associated with specific growing regions (whether grapes or hops). Essentially, even if farmers choose to continue cultivating specific varieties using similar farming and harvesting practices, both hop yield and alpha acid content can be impacted by environmental changes. 

What does that mean? Just because a hop varietal has survived, doesn’t mean it will have the same aromatic consistency YoY.

Hop Preservation: A Living Record of Hop Varietals

A “living hop record” is needed to protect endangered hop varietals and to protect the consistency of beloved aromatics. Hop aromatic compounds are selected, extracted, and refined via molecular distillation in order to map and recreate aromatic profiles using botanical terpenes'

These Optimized Hop Extracts allow brewers to obtain the exact hop flavor they want and reproduce it accurately, economically, and consistently. Brewers can now replace a majority of their hop pellets, reduce costs, and increase beer yield.

Abstrax cofounder and CEO Max Koby discussed the impact of Optimized Hop Extracts with Craft Brewing Business, saying, “Not only will this living record provide convenience, but it also protects the industry against all odds if environment and market factors challenge the status quo of the brewing industry.”

 

Hop Profiles Master Kit | Abstrax Hops

Preserving Hop Aromatics with Optimized Hop Extracts

Abstrax Hop Profiles are true-to-type optimized hop extracts without any of the undesirable notes typically found in other dry-hop aroma oils. We use proprietary technology to test for well over 400 botanical compounds found in hops, whereas other labs test for maybe 50 compounds at most. Because of this, we are able to analyze hops in a way that has never been done before. 

Obtain the precise hop flavor you want and consistently reproduce it with accuracy without worrying about annual variations from weather, disease, or supply imbalances.

Interested in brewing with our Optimized Hop Extracts? Contact us today.

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