Industry All Access Exclusive

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.

Stan Hieronymus Feb 12, 2021 - 10 min read

Smoke Taint: Not Just for Grapes Anymore Primary Image

Photo: Courtesy Yakima Chief Hops

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.

Access All of the Brewing Industry Guide

Subscribe today to access all of the in-depth brewing stories & advice you won't find anywhere else (including this article). Subscription includes unlimited access to every brewing report, brewing course (60+), article, video (55+), magazine issue (40+), and more.