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Learning the Love Language: How Even the Smallest Breweries Can Evaluate Their Hops

Relying on the spot market is no reason to accept hops that don’t meet your brewery’s standards. Here are tips from the hop-sensory pros on making sure you get the traits and quality you need.

Stan Hieronymus Dec 20, 2021 - 12 min read

Learning the Love Language: How Even the Smallest Breweries Can Evaluate Their Hops Primary Image

Photo: Matt Graves/mgravesphoto.com

Indiana’s 3 Floyds is a “have” when it comes to hop selection, sending a team to the Northwest each fall to select the hops the brewery will use over the next year. Yet in October, director of brewing engineering Todd Haugh echoed a concern often expressed by breweries not large enough to participate.

Although 3 Floyds has contracts for most of its hops, the brewery also plans to purchase some on the spot market, shopping alongside the “have nots.” After rubbing and smelling offerings from the 2021 harvest, Haugh spoke honestly about what was rejected: “Some lots are going to show up on the spot market we should not brew with,” he said during a Brewers Supply Group (BSG) webinar.

It’s no wonder that the “have nots” worry that the hops larger breweries pass on are of lesser quality. “That perception, it is there,” counters Juno Choi, craft-beer strategist at BSG. “It’s not true.”

Getting Great Hops from the Spot Market

Farmers around the world harvest more than 250 million pounds of hops a year. There are plenty to choose from after Sierra Nevada, Firestone Walker, Bell’s, and even Anheuser-Busch InBev are done shopping.

Below are some ways that smaller breweries can make sure they acquire hops that will make their brewers happy.

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