The diversity of hop varieties is amazing. For traditional brewing purposes, different hops are used to create different styles of beer. For example, low alpha acid (low bitterness) varieties such as Hallertau or Saaz are used to create Pilsners, and high alpha acid varieties like Chinook are used in IPA's.
I have talked with many Brewers and their #1 requirement of purchasing hops is "Quality!", so.......what does quality really mean?
Hop Growers spend much of their efforts maintaining and protecting their crop throughout the growing season. Across the Northern half of the United States, near the end of July, the harvest season begins. Proper harvest timing could be the most important aspect of growing a "Quality" hop.
Why is timing important? If you pick too early, you will have low alpha acids and a grassy aroma. If you pick too late, they will have a garlic/onion aroma, or give an off-taste. If this happens, you may not be able to sell your hops.
So, when do I harvest? Well, many ways to determine "ripeness" of hop cones have been explored. But, the most accurate and dependable technique is having the cones tested. When analyzed, we determine the top 3 indicators of harvest timing: dry matter, alpha acids, & co-humulone, as well as HSI. For each of your varieties we will indicate if each of these are in range (time to pick!). Reviewing the AAR Pre-Harvest Hop Reports allows you to prioritize your harvest.
To test whether or not a hop crop is ready to harvest, you gather a good sampling of cones from each variety, filling up a sandwich size baggie (~1 oz), put them in a box, add some newspaper for insulation, then ship them to our lab.
For more info on sending samples, and our online lab, CLICK HERE or send me an email.... firstname.lastname@example.org
Happy 4th everyone!
Zach Lilla, Lead Chemist at AAR has over 17 years of analytical chemistry experiece focused in the areas of Food, Dietary Supplements, Beer, Wine, Hops, and Distillate Analysis.