Innovation is something the hop industry really hasn’t figured out yet. Sure, there are new varieties coming out of every orifice of the hop industry these days. There are so many that it’s becoming difficult for growers to manage them all. The mind-numbing flow of new varieties continues. Once you start the variety-producing machine it’s difficult to stop. All that innovation doesn’t really change the way things are done. It creates more selection for brewers on the “shelf” of varieties from which to choose when brewers go shopping. Today, brewers can choose hops with citrusy flavors described in fifteen different creative ways. That’s confusing! Back in the stone age of craft brewing, 10-15 years ago, there were only a couple varieties with citrusy flavor. Somehow those guys made a lot of great beer. It’s starting to be like the cereal section at the grocery store.
All the extra choice in the hop industry isn’t raising the bar. It’s just crowding the field. Sometimes less is more. There is some bad beer out there today that sells because it has the name of the variety and “IPA” after it on the bottle. Have you ever been pissed off when you pick up a beer anticipating how it might taste … and it’s terrible. Breweries use hop varieties today as a marketing gimmick to sell beer. When did they stop using them to create interesting flavors? It’s great that people care so much about hops. If some brewers are using hop hype as a means to an end, our wonderful hop trend might turn into a fad rather than a culture.True innovation in the hop industry would be pouring dollars into research that expands the hop beyond the brewing industry.
Imagine a hop industry whose fate cannot be manipulated and controlled by the actions of a few large breweries. More money should go towards Xanthohumol research as a potential cure for cancer. Articles about that Xanthohumol have littered journals for over 10 years. It is always something “on the horizon”. Here are some more ideas you can have. Hop plants have as much or more cellulosic fiber than hemp! It has high tensile strength and long sisal fibers. I’ve tested the vines right after harvest and again 6 months later. Everybody knows how useful hemp is. Hop paper, hop clothing, hop twine, hop labels on beer bottles are all potential products. Hops are legal to grow everywhere without the government oversight of cannabis or hemp. Cellulosic ethanol production is a thing these days. Imagine … hop fuel.
I looked into all of those things. I believe there are viable business opportunities in each of those ideas. It will take somebody with passion to develop a business around those ideas. The ideas are there … somebody please take them and run with them. To be fair, not everybody is a slouch. There are a couple companies out there looking into very cool things. Beta acids are a possible solution for preservatives and saving the world’s bee population. Kudos to the companies working on those projects! The hop industry needs more of that sort of innovation, not more hop varieties.