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Growers slow to warm to frozen hops

Sean Ellis

Capital Press

Hop growers in Washington, Oregon and Idaho ,the nation's top hop producing states, have been slow to warm to the idea of freezing instead of drying hops. A South Dakota man who is pushing the idea may shift the focus of his project away from this area to his home state as a result.

A South Dakota man trying to prove that freezing hops instead of drying them is cheaper and results in better tasting beer may shift the focus of his project from the Pacific Northwest to his home state.

Dakota Hops owner Steve Polley has tried to work with growers in Idaho, Oregon and Washington, the nation’s top three hop producing states, for the past few years but has found it difficult to get them to warm to the idea of frozen hops.

“I just don’t think it’s going to work,” he said. “Do we want to try to keep working with the big boys or start a South Dakota project and go from there?”

Polley hasn’t given up on the project, though, and insists that freezing hops is cheaper than drying them and results in quality beer.

“It’s still something we’re looking at,” Polley said. “We think it has not only an advantage in the beer-making process but, everything being equal, we think we can freeze hops more cheaply.”

Conventional wisdom that freezing hops turns them to mush is incorrect, he added.

“Everyone says you cannot freeze a hop because it turns to mush. I’m sorry, that’s not true,” he said. “They freeze beautifully. I know it works because we’ve been doing it.”

Polley’s project has been aided by research conducted at Black Hills State University and South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, which both supported the feasibility of his project in letters sent to the Idaho State Department of Agriculture last year.

His project has been assisted by 10 grants from various sources. Polley also applied for a grant through the Hop Research Council but administrator Nancy Frketich said she doesn’t see the idea taking root in the near future.

One big hurdle is that it would be expensive for growers to convert from the drying equipment they have now to some type of freeze-dried system, she said.

“If the brewers are convinced and that’s what they want to use, then growers would look into it,” she said. “If the brewers are interested, they would fund it.”

Idaho Hop Commission Chairman Mike Gooding said he would keep an open mind to the idea, especially if it promises to save the industry money, but for now he doubts it will gain traction.

“I still don’t think you’re going to hear much on that,” he said. “If that thing was working, you’d see guys beating his door down for the recipe.”


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