Gayle Goschie’s family farm is nestled in the mist-bathed Willamette Valley, an emerald strip famously suited for growing everything from Christmas trees to pinot noir grapes. But it is the scent of ripening hops that draws brewers on an annual trip to Silverton, OR. A couple of years ago, one hop-besotted brewer confessed, “I sort of have a crush on Gayle.”
Hops don’t sound like such a great crop: They require three years to reach full production, farmers must spend thousands of dollars an acre to set up 20-foot trellises, and hops can be sold for only one, very specific purpose. But that may also be what recommends them. “There’s not a brewer I met that I don’t like,” she says. “Whether big or small.” Because it’s such a specialized crop, it has given the Goschies—and other hop growers nearby—an opportunity to forge close relationships with the people who use the little green cones.
Several years back, the hop industry changed radically when Anheuser-Busch quit contracting with Oregon growers. It turned out to be a good thing, though: Instead of demanding ever higher-alpha hops so they could buy fewer pounds, smaller brewers wanted aroma varieties, and tons of them. It allowed grower and brewer to collaborate. “It just seemed so logical,” she said. The brewers love to come to the fields and “get their hands green.” Goschie also works with the USDA and hop scientists from Corvallis, and now the life cycle of the hop—from bine to beer—is far more integrated. “We’re not growing a commodity any longer. It’s such an exciting time.”
This profile appears in the November 2014 issue of All About Beer Magazine. Click here for a free trial of our next issue.