Hops (Humulus lupulus L.) play a crucial role in the beer making process. Within the female flowers, known as “cones,” there are lupulin glands containing alpha acids, beta acids, and essential oils, which provide bittering and unique aroma flavors to beer. Recent increasing demand in specialty beers and locally sourced ingredients, compounded with the decline in worldwide hop production and commodity crop prices, has resulted in an increased interest in local hop production.
Craft beer sales continue to be on the rise across the United States, and Nebraska is making a name for itself in the industry. In 2015 alone, Nebraska produced 39,505 barrels and had an economic impact of $424 million dollars (ranks 32nd). Hop production acreage across the world has dropped from 180,000 in 1992 to 130,000 acres in 2016, increasing the demand for hops in the United States, principally aroma (alpha-acid) types, driven by craft brewer consumer demands.
At present, 39 percent of the alpha-type hops are grown in the United States with the majority (98 percent) presently grown in Washington, Oregon and Idaho, having a combined harvest acreage of 50,857 acres in 2016. In the past 5 years, United States hop production has increased 72 percent, and 80 percent of the varieties are aroma/duel purpose hop varieties. In 2016, Nebraska had 24 acres of hops under production, with the anticipation that number increasing to approximately 40 acres in 2017. Hops can be grown in much of the United States, but need to be evaluated for varietal performance, productivity and quality.
Spring happenings with Nebraska HopsApril 18, 2017
Katie Kreuser joined the University of Nebraska–Lincoln hops team in April. She is located at the Cass County Extension office in Weeping Water, Nebraska. Prior to this position, she was a research technician in Nebraska’s Agronomy & Horticulture Department, focusing on buffalograss and hop breeding projects.
Her roles include developing and delivering training to Nebraska hop growers and brewers, sharing timely information via publications and social media, and managing the annual Nebraska Grower and Brewer Conference & Trade Show. She will also be working with colleagues throughout the Midwestern United States to develop new cultivars and production practices suited to our growing conditions and markets.
Three days in, Katie traveled to Cleveland, Ohio to participate in the Great Lakes Hop Working Group’s 3rd annual meeting earlier this month. Hop researchers, extension specialists, and collaborators from several states east of the Rocky Mountains shared updates on hop production and current research efforts in their states. The meeting concluded with several project collaborations planned for 2017 and 2018.
NEBRASKA HOPS NEWS
Save the date! Free Introductory Hop Workshop to be offered June 8th
Are you interested in learning about growing hops? Join Nebraska faculty and extension personnel for a free workshop on Thursday, June 8th from 4-6 pm. The workshop will meet on The University of Nebraska–Lincoln East Campus in Plant Science Hall, Room 199, and will conclude with a tour of the Nebraska hop yard. Topics of discussion will include the science of hops, site selection, productivity and performance, and the financial considerations of hop production. Register at http://go.unl.edu/hops-seminar. Please direct questions to Katie Kreuser, Hop Program Coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hops Field Day & Scouting Workshop set for July 22
Midwest Hop Producers and Nebraska Extension will have a Hops Field Day and Scouting Workshop on Saturday, July 22, 2017 from 8:30 am – 4:30 pm. Speakers from the University Nebraska–Lincoln and Nebraska Extension, as well as local growers and brewers will be presenting. Topics include hop yard design, irrigation, major pests and disease and weed management, as well as hearing a brewers perspective. Hands-on in-field scouting, harvesting equipment display and an update on hop efforts across Nebraska will also be provided. Registration and a detailed agenda will be available soon at Midwest Hop Producers/Nebraska Hop Yards,18003 Club View Drive, Plattsmouth NE 68048 or on-line at http://midwesthopproducers.com/workshop/.
Hops Cultivar and Production Evaluation for Nebraska
This project is to evaluate eight selected hop varieties, having desirable qualities for craft beer brewers and hobbyists, for plant health, productivity, quality and annual consistency at multiple locations across Nebraska. Funding for the Cultivar trials is from the Nebraska Department of Agriculture and Specialty Crop Block Grant Project.
The Nebraska Hops cultivar evaluation had a remarkable season! The working plan for this first year of the three year project was considered to be an establishment year. One in which we prepared the planting beds, installed the trellis and planted the rooted hop liners. Culture was implemented to establish healthy plants, and additionally, observations were made to identify potential pests or cultural challenges we might find.
As the season progressed, at most locations, the individual hop cultivars exceeded our expectations in performance. Culture did play a major contributor in the quality we observed, however, we did note that certain cultivars were very consistent in their growth, flowering and cone development. A sampling was made of all varieties grown to investigate the quality of these first year hop cones. The results are shown in the following table.
Hop Testing Lab Results
|Cultivar||Project Alpha Acid||Project Beta Acid||Alpha Target|
**These varieties not in the statewide cultivar evaluation however a part of the UNL campus collection.
Genetic Diversity of Nebraska Wild Hops
A study to investigate the genetic traits of hop plants found in locations (wild or minimally tended) across the State that have exhibited survivability over several decades.
Hop Breeding Program
Development of regionally adapted hops through traditional plant breeding methods.
During summer of 2016, our researchers are installing five research plantings in various locations statewide. This first year will be site development and plant establishment. The purpose of this project is to create some foundational information applicable to emerging specialty crop hop growers. Four research plantings are “mirror” plantings using same varieties, trellising, and cultural programming. Of specific interest are performance characteristics in varying environmental and geographical situations. On University of Nebraska–Lincoln East Campus, a larger planting will be installed to support efforts in breeding work and chemical application evaluation. 2016 will be establishment for all of these sites, however, updates will be provided.