Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Imperfect Union of Craft Beer and Local Hops

Posted By on Sun, Oct 30, 2011 at 6:31 AM

Dried whole Idaho hops

“I love hops. To me, hops are what make beer beer.”

That’s what Laughing Dog Brewery owner Fred Colby said as we toured his Ponderay brewery. Even though he was crazy-busy getting ready for his brewery’s sixth birthday bash, he couldn’t stop talking hops.

“One of the things that you see in craft brewers today in hops is they’re adding layers of complexity into the beer," Colby said. "So rather than kind of one-dimensional beers, we can build really complex, artful tasting beers. I think, you know, that’s why it’s called craft beer.”

Colby’s self-confessed hop obsession seems fitting since Idaho is the third largest hop producer in the United States and Laughing Dog sits just south of what Colby called “one of the largest contiguous hop farms in the world,” Elk Mountain Farms near Bonner’s Ferry.

But this seemingly perfect union of hop-loving craft brewers and nearby hop growers isn’t all that perfect.

In the Nov. 2 issue of BW, I find out why craft brewers and hop growers seldom collaborate and why Northwest beer makers often have to beg for hops in America’s hop-growing epicenter.

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