Cone Heads

Impress your drunk friends with some newfound hop knowledge.

  1. Ever wonder why hoppy beer kind of smells like weed? It’s because hops and cannabis are cousins, both members of the Cannabaceae family, which includes Humulus (hops), Cannabis (weed) and Celtis (a bunch of weird trees called hackberries). Chemical compounds called terpenes give them that zesty, vegetal scent.
  1. Speaking of chemicals, the magical flavor hops impart to beer comes from a yellow, waxy oil called lupulin. If you ever get the chance to rub a hop cone between your palms, do it: You’ll get a blast of fresh-hop scent that will remind you of your favorite beer. Lupulin contains mild antibacterial agents that stop bacteria from growing in your beer while the brewer’s yeast does its job.
  1. Hops grow on bines, not vines. Why have a special word? Bines grow upward when a plant’s shoots are near a support, such as a trellis. Vines rely on suckers to make their way up supports. Hops don’t need any of that highfalutin sucker nonsense. They pull themselves up by their bootstraps to grow the old-fashioned way, like real Americans. (Yes, hops are native to North America.)
  1. The United States produces 30 percent of the world’s hops, and almost all of that is produced in the Pacific Northwest. Oregon produces about 14 percent of the country’s hops, adding $35 million to the state economy in 2014.
  1. Oregon hops are the most valuable in the nation, selling for $4.34 per pound compared to Washington’s $3.89 and Idaho’s measly $2.75 in 2014. Washington produces the vast majority of the country’s hops—75 percent—most years.
  1. Speaking of poundage, the total amount of hops currently growing in the U.S. has increased massively over the last few years. More than 59 million pounds of hops were grown in the U.S. in 2012. In 2014, it was more than 70 million pounds. Recent forecasts suggest that American farmers will harvest close to 80 million pounds of hops in 2015.
  1. Your beer is putting money directly into Oregon farmers’ wallets. Craft beers use significantly more hops than macro brews—Budweiser, Miller and Coors—at least four times as many on average. This explains why farmers keep growing more hops: As consumers demand more and more craft beers, the need for hops rises.
  1. There are more than 120 varieties of hops grown commercially around the world. Different varieties of hops are associated with different kinds of beers. Pilsner is made with European noble varieties like Saaz and Hallertau, while your newfangled, ultra-hoppy craft IPA is probably made with patented Citra™.
  1. Oregon brewers have won the gold medal in the Great American Beer Festival’s Fresh Hop Ale category for the last two years. Portland’s Old Town Brewing Co. won in 2013 with Cents and Censability American Pale Ale, and Baker City’s Barley Brown’s Brew Pub won in 2014 with Fresh Hop Pallet Jack IPA. 

WWeek 2015

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