Our hop research partnership with the University of Maryland’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources was never intended to be anything close to a pet project.
In 2016, we set off with a specific, ambitious goal: Find out what it takes to grow hops of the same caliber, in both quality and yield, of those grown in traditional hop-growing regions, and grow them in Maryland. And now, armed with two harvests worth of experience and data, we’re closer than ever to pinpointing the perfect formula for growing high quantities of local hops useful to craft brewers in our region.
Hops On Hops On Hops
Year two saw the yields in 23 of the 24 varieties planted at the Western Maryland Research and Education Center in Keedysville double, triple, and even quadruple from 2017’s harvest.
But this wasn’t just dumb luck. The 2018 season hit our burgeoning plants with heat and humidity, which opened the door for insect and disease development. Such an extreme reflection of Maryland’s weather pushed us to further refine our rigorous maintenance practices. It was the perfect stress test.
The Hops Are a-Changin'
Along with the increases in yield, Brewmaster Ben Clark’s sensory team recorded significant changes in variety-specific aromas and flavors compared to 2017’s harvest. Vojvodina, for example, transformed its floral, melon notes from last season into a profile full of tropical and citrus aromas. Southern Cross added more citrus and spice to its already tropical profile.
Vojvodina profile (2017 vs. 2018):
Southern Cross Profile (2017 vs. 2018):
Since hop plants take three years to come to full maturity, we could see these profiles change completely when we evaluate 2019’s yield, but after that, we’ll have a very accurate representation of yields and aroma characteristics moving forward.
Based on what we’ve seen from the first two harvests, we’re confident enough in six varieties (Amallia, Glacier, Southern Cross, Sorachi Ace, Vojvodina, and Southern Brewer) to give them their own new hop yard this spring.
Field Notes Pale Ale
Sensory analysis is crucial in selecting viable varieties, but, in order to truly evaluate these hops, we have to put them in a beer. Since Vojvodina, Southern Brewer, and Southern Cross remained consistent favorites throughout our research, the Spring 2019 release of Field Notes Pale Ale will be more similar to our original 2017 version. What’s most exciting is that, because the yields were so much better this past year, we did not need to use any other varieties to as supplements to get the volume to where it needed to be for a production-size brew.
Every release of Field Notes Pale Ale has a simple malt base and clean yeast strain to allow for the fullest expression of each hop.
Field Notes Pale Ale, along with hard copies of the 2019 edition of our Maryland Hop Growers Guide, will be available starting Friday, March 1st in our tasting room. You can also read and download the PDF version of the guide below.