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Hops Insider: Choosing Higher-Yield, Lower-Impact Hops

There are many varieties of hops with significantly lower environmental impact than some older, popular varieties—and more are on the way. But will brewers embrace them?

Stan Hieronymus Oct 17, 2022 - 12 min read

Hops Insider: Choosing Higher-Yield, Lower-Impact Hops Primary Image

Rows of experimental hops at Perrault Farms in Toppenish, Washington. Besides aroma, yield and disease resistance are key factors that determine whether brewers may some day get to use them. Photo: Joe Stange.

Climate change is bad for hops. Meanwhile, the production of hops contributes to climate change. Must this story have an unhappy ending?

Brewers can play a major role in determining the answer to that question.

“Our focus is on sustainability,” says New Image Brewing founder Brandon Capps, who is advocating hops and hop products with smaller environmental footprints—even if they might result in a small change in flavor. He says brewers must consider such options “while we still have options available.”

New Image has hired a consultant to analyze its carbon footprint. Capps is initially focused on using solar energy, CO2 recapture, regenerative barley, and purchasing offsets. He’s seen research that reports that hops contribute little, on a percentage basis, to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions resulting from the production of beer.

Yet he also understands that “every bit counts” when considering hops and sustainability. The hop industry’s first life-cycle assessment (LCA) and related studies indicate how quickly those bits can add up.

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