Rub and Sniff
Whether you believe that Pliny the Elder, a Roman botanist, was the first to identify hops shortly after the beginning of the common era, or the honor belongs to Leonhart Fuchs, a 16th century Bavarian botanist (as recounted by Martyn Cornells on his Zythophile blog), either way this pungent flower is a relative newcomer to the millennia-old world of beer and as divine as it is, it’s being perfected all around the world. Stan Hieronymus is presently writing For the Love of Hops (Brewers Publications), which will fully explore the past, present and future fascination with, and application of these consecrated cones.
There’s only one species of hop but there are scores—hundreds even—of varieties grown on every continent (need we say, save Antarctica). There are serious hop breeding programs around the globe selecting new varieties to cultivate or, more commonly, “cultivars,” contracted from “cultivated varieties.” We won’t dwell on the Czech Republic where they grow almost nothing but herbal Saaz hops; their pilsners are amazing, but what have you done for us lately, Bohemia? There’s the Hop Research Center in Hüll, Germany; Wye Hops Ltd in Kent, UK; Hops Product Australia down in Tasmania; and, here in the U.S., there are breeding programs in the public and private sector. That’s where Dr. Henning and Perrault come in, respectively, as there are half a dozen serious breeding programs in the U.S. alone. Incidentally, not all hop research conducted on the OSU campus falls under the USDA’s umbrella. A new craft-centric hops supplier called Indie Hops bankrolls OSU’s breeding program, making the hop breeders and chemists who work down the hall from Dr. Henning his colleagues but not his coworkers.