Tuesday, January 23, 2018

This Week Only (Until Next Year)

The 62nd American Hop Convention is taking place right now in sunny Palm Desert. 62nd! As incredible as that seems, we - and by that I mean, Americans - have been growing hops commercially for much longer than 62 years. According to USA Hops, "The first commercial hop production was a 45-acre garden established in 1648 to supply a brewery in the Massachusetts Bay settlement."

Now, 99% of the United States' hop crops are grown in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho with Washington producing 75% of the nation's crop according to the USDA National Hop Report. Production in 2017 for those states totaled a record 104 million pounds valued at $618 million.

Subjects at the hop convention cover such topics as Quality Control, Food Safety and Best Practices Programs, and Succession Planning for Family Businesses and feature speakers such as Dr. Eric Snodgrass, Director of Undergraduate Studies, Department of Atmospheric Sciences, University of Illinois/Urbana-Champaign. With that lineup, I don't know why I'm not in Palm Desert right this second.

Here's one reason: according to the convention Schedule of Events, there is only one scheduled coffee break and that's not until Friday. I know the week's focus is on hops and, as a related topic, beer but no coffee's not going to work for me. I can see from the Sponsorship Form that beer will be served at various convention events, meetings, and breaks so at least there's that.

The other might be the price although we are talking about a four day conference here. $765 was the pre-registration pricing. (Is the coffee included?) One of the week's events, "Hops and Props," will take place in two rented hangers at the Palm Springs Air Museum which sounds like fun. It will include music from Company B (an Andrews Sisters tribute group) as well as plane rides and exhibition. That's practically worth the price of admission right there! (That event can be purchased a la carte for $200.)

Aside from the coffee and the price, I would be there except I'm not. I'm in Washington, in the rain, about 200 miles from Yakima where the hops are grown. There are more than a few breweries there, too. This summer, I should make a trek that way to see the hop crop for myself. There's a video of what the production cycle looks like here, produced by the Oregon Hop Commission. Looks interesting.

I'm telling you, beer is serious business. Speaking of which, I think succession planning for not only hop farms but breweries will be a hot topic in the coming years. If I were planning a convention, that would be the topic. And, while I would necessarily need to serve beer, I wouldn't skimp on the coffee.

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