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Smoke Taint: Not Just for Grapes Anymore
Last year’s wildfires had an unforeseen effect on the 2020 hop crop. The phenols involved have low volatility and high solubility, which means they transfer easily from hops to beer. Here’s what you need to know.
There is no entry for “smoke-tainted hops” in The Oxford Companion to Beer. In the 19th century, however, The Complete Practical Farmer warned hop growers not to “leave the least taint of fire” on hops as they kilned them.
In the nearly two centuries since then, brewers have had no reason to worry about whether hops might add smoky flavor to their beers. Smoke from fires in wine country tainted grapes and ruined wines, but hops appeared to be immune—until 2020. No wonder nobody saw this coming.
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