Sunday, 24 May 2015

Brewing in the 1950’s – North American Hops

I’m finally getting to the end of Jeffery’s discussion of hop varieties. Sorry it’s taken so long.

This time we’re looking at North American hops. Starting with Canada.

British Columbians. Unfortunately, we have only had the pleasure of seeing a very few of these hops, but we were greatly impressed by them. They combine brightness of appearance with a fair size of cone, and, above all, a flavour which could well equal that of the best Kent Fuggles. It is a pity that more are not available. Their preservative value is high, and they could be used with advantage even in the best beers.”
"Brewing Theory and Practice" by E. J. Jeffery, 1956, page 176.

I’ve seen these turn up occasionally in brewing records. Though I’m damned if I can find any examples at the moment. Was Canada much of a hop producer? I feel like a table coming on. I knew all that crap I collected about hops would come in useful sometime. Actually, I didn’t think that, but collected it anyway. Because the crazy obsessive type of thing I do.

As you can see, Canada wasn’t exactly a player on the world stage:

World Production of hops 1951 - 1957
Country 1951 1952 1953 average 1950-54 1955 1956 1957
cwts. cwts. cwts. cwts. cwts. cwts. cwts.
Northern Hemisphere
USA 564,634 546,991 372,786 478,812 329,233 342,705 358,349
Canada 17,339 17,920 15,179§ 17,214 12,554 12,902 10,563
United Kingdom 321,821 282,348 266,000 298,216 256,821 184,170 267,670
Czechoslovakia 98,420§ 80,705§ 98,420§ 98,000 120,428 96,304 73,813
Germany 252,795 206,187 280,500 256,688 253,358 277,027 283,473
France 41,330 34,446 48,223 39,660 41,214 33,071 33,696
Belgium 19,366 17,062 19,179 20,750 26,571 16,027 23,821
Spain t 2,607 3,661 t 5,732 5,812 6,893
Poland t t t t 24,992 12,580 24,598
Yugoslavia 24,652 23,652 25,589 25,661 36,616 45,866 52,848
Other European t t t t 875 1,134 982
USSR t t t t 78,812 57,723 65,196
Japan 9,054 16,241 13,286 11,026 15,187 15,795 16,205
Total 1,349,411 1,228,159 1,142,823 1,246,027 1,202,393 1,101,116 1,218,107
Southern Hemisphere*
Australia 18,384 31,920 28,000§ 27,376 34,376 25,902 31,429
New Zealand 7,795 8,036 7,589§ 8,946 11,062 8,964 8,929
Union of South Africa 2,482 3,384 3,125§ 3,071 2,098 1,625 1,376
Argentina 1,179 1,179 1,116§ 1,330 1,571 1,714 2,411
Total 29,840 44,519 39,830§ 40,723 49,107 38,205 44,143
World Total 1,379,251 1,272,678 1,182,653§ 1,286,750 1,251,500 1,139,321 1,262,250
* crops harvested early in the following year
t not available
§ estimate
1951, 1952, 1953: 1955 Brewers' Almanack, page 65.
average 1950-54, 1955, 1956, 1957: 1962 Brewers' Almanack, page 63.

If I show Canada’s share in percentage terms, it’s clear how insignificant the country was as a hop producer:

Canada's share of hop production
Year Canada World Total Canada's %
1951 17,339 1,379,251 1.26%
1952 17,920 1,272,678 1.41%
1953 15,179 1,182,653 1.28%
average 1950-54 17,214 1,286,750 1.34%
1955 12,554 1,251,500 1.00%
1956 12,902 1,139,321 1.13%
1957 10,563 1,262,250 0.84%

This originally Canadian variety is still with us:

“A cross between a wild Manitoba hop and an English hop, called Brewer's Gold is remarkable for its very high preservative value (120-140 on the dry hop). It has a rather strong aroma, but if blended it can be used as a copper hop. It has even been used as a dry hop.”
"Brewing Theory and Practice" by E. J. Jeffery, 1956, page 176.

Now on to the USA:

“United States. Hops from the New York district are usually ranked first in value, on account of their greater delicacy in flavour. Next in order is placed those grown in and marketed as Sonomas, Oregons, and Sacramentos. These hops all have a very distinctive colour, being pale primrose without a trace of a green tinge. This feature is probably due to the climatic conditions under which they are grown and harvested. In wealth of resins they have no equal, the amount being in some cases remarkable. For this reason they have a very high preservative value. Unfortunately, they have some rather noticeable and serious defects, one of which is the large amount of stick and leaf present, which weighs up to a considerable amount. This defect is due to the introduction of machinery for picking, and we fail to see how the defect is to be obviated. In our opinion, it detracts greatly from the brewing value. Furthermore, American hops are prone to attacks from blight and vermin. In some instances the infection is so intense that the insides of a large proportion of cones is rendered black and foul. Even the strigs are sometimes affected. The vastness of the gardens makes the situation even more difficult to handle than is the case when dealing with a scourge in England. Sonomas are supposed to enjoy a certain amount of freedom from attacks by blight. All the same, we have seen specimens of them in a most undesirable condition.”
"Brewing Theory and Practice" by E. J. Jeffery, 1956, pages 176 - 177.

I thought New York’s hop industry was long gone by the 1950’s. Didn’t they have terrible problems with pests and disease?

Sonoma and Sacramento, of course, are in California. We’ll be hearing later about the effect of machine picking on yields and hop quality. All I can say is that it must have saved a stack of money on labour, because it had all sorts of disadvantages. The US industry had abandoned hand picking before WW II.

A recurring theme when British brewers discuss American hops is the horrible blackcurrant flavour. They were saying the same back in the 19th century.

“In flavour, Sonomas are certainly entitled to pride of position because they are much milder than Oregons, and free from that intense and objectionable black-currant flavour. Great efforts have been made in recent years to eradicate or lessen this by planting hills of delicate flavoured Kent and Worcester hops nearby. In some cases a degree of success has been met with, but, whether it is due to the nature of the soil or to the climate, there is always a gradual tendency to hark back to the strong flavour.”
"Brewing Theory and Practice" by E. J. Jeffery, 1956, page 177.

Not sure why planting British hops close by would make the others taste better.

Before WW II US hops were as common as muck in Britain. But, with UK-grown supplies being sufficient after the war, they seem to have disappeared pretty much completely. Whitbread look like they were using up some old Oregons they had during the war, but when they ran out in 1945, they disappear from their records.

It’s one of the biggest changes in ingredients I’ve seen, wartime excepted. American hops had been a mainstay for British brewers for around 100 years. Then suddenly they were discarded, like a lover who’s become fat or bald. Or both.

“The cones of some of the Oregon hops are of immense size, and we have seen some 3 in. or more in length. The bracts are long and pointed, and come away from the strig easily, displaying much resin. Unfortunately, the resins quickly change from soft to hard when stored under ordinary conditions. They emit, in a hard state, a pungent and uninviting aroma. Sacramentos are the coarsest of the series, and compare unfavourably both in resinous content and preservative properties.
"Brewing Theory and Practice" by E. J. Jeffery, 1956, page 177.

Don’t think I’ve ever come across anything specifically called Sacramento. Though they could just have been described as American or Californian. They sound pretty crap – bad flavour and with lesser preservative power.

Unbelievably, there’s loads, loads more about hops in the 1950’s to come. Unless I get distracted, obviously.


JessKidden said...

The New York State hop industry was never able to recover after Repeal - total NY hop crops were tiny (for instance, the US used 37 million pounds of hops in 1937 and the NY State crop was 140,000 lbs) - but it did not wholly disappear.

For one, the Geo. Segal Company owned a hop farm in Malone (north of NY's main traditional hop growing region centered around Waterville - Cooperstown area in the middle of the state) through most of the 1940s-50s - planting 400 lbs. of Bavarian hop roots in 1949, export of which supposedly was only allowed because of US military government's approval.
See - Timeline - 1959

More on NYS's attempts to revive their hop industry after Prohibition at my page

A Brew Rat said...

That black currant flavor is the reason why I like Cluster so much.