Over the past few weeks, the Switchback crew has been investigating the commercial brewing potential of several varieties of hops found growing wild around Vermont & New England. With the help of the UVM Extension NW Crops & Soils Team, we ran several sensory and analytical tests on the beers we brewed using three different wild hop varieties: Kingdom from Tunbridge, VT, Northfield from Northfield, MA, and Wolcott from Wolcott, VT. After analyzing the test results, the team packed up and headed off to present their findings at 10th Annual Vermont Hop Conference in South Burlington, VT.
Once there, we poured samples of each wild-hopped beer we brewed. Conference attendees were given a tasting sheet and asked to answer four questions: Which sample had the most aroma? Which sample had the most flavor? Which sample was the most bitter? Which sample did you like the best? Once the conference concluded we counted the responses and were surprised by what we found.
Last week when the Switchback crew sampled these beers at the brewery, the beer brewed with Wolcott hops from Wolcott, VT was the clear favorite. We were expecting similar results from the hop conference questionnaires, but found there was a new favorite. The Annual Hop Conference attendees ranked the beer brewed with Northfield hops the highest in every category. They felt it was the most bitter, had the most flavor and aroma and was overall the most enjoyable to drink.
While only 32% of the Switchback crew said they would enjoy drinking a beer brewed with the Northfield hop, its popularity at the conference shows that it certainly isn’t out of the running to one day be a commercial hop variety.
Taking on an intern and working with the UVM Extension has been a blast! We are thrilled to have had the opportunity to learn more about what is required to produce a commercially viable hop. Thank you so much to all who helped with this project and to everyone who followed along with the story. Cheers!