Currently, if you want to try a beer featuring the new Oregon State University-developed Strata hop, your best bet is a can of Worthy Brewing’s Strata India Pale Ale.
But in just a couple of weeks? The hop could be everywhere.
Jim Solberg, a co-founder of Indie Hops, the company that funds OSU’s Aroma Hops Breeding Program, said there are 30 to 40 breweries in Portland alone looking to use the Strata hop and some were planning to pick their order up the day after it was harvested.
“Mid-September you will see a lot of fresh hop Strata beers,” he said. “It’s gonna quickly get a whole lot more exposure.”
Portland-based Indie Hops began harvest on its first year of commercial-scale production of Strata in late August. Solberg said the company expects to harvest about 200,000 pounds of the hops off about 100 acres of farmland near Independence.
Although OSU famously developed hops like Cascade, Nugget and Willamette, those came from a United States Department of Agriculture affiliated program at the university. Strata is the first release from OSU’s aroma hops program, which was founded in 2010 under Shaun Townsend.
“In plant breeding, certainly hop breeding, we plan on at least 10 years of effort before we might have something ready to release as a new cultivar — the process requires significant time to identify the superior plants. Strata, the program’s first release, is moving into commercial production a bit earlier than normal due [to] significant demand by brewers, and due to this genotype’s strong agronomic performance,” Townsend said.
Townsend said his program does the plant breeding and then assesses the plants for things like yield and disease resistance, and Indie Hops then does a sensory assessment on the hops, both evaluating cone aroma and brewing trials.
Solberg, a member of Corvallis High School’s class of 1979, said the challenge in developing a new hop variety is in finding one with the positive traits like disease resistance and productivity that also has a unique aroma. Strata is at an intersection of those traits, he said.
Solberg said to this point many beers featuring Strata have been limited run productions, with the exception of Worthy’s Strata IPA. Solberg said Worthy’s owner, Roger Worthington, co-founded Indie Hops with him, so his brewery was the first given the opportunity to produce a year-round beer with Strata. The company began bottling Strata in September 2017 and began selling it in cans over the summer.
Lydia Jones, with Worthy, said the Strata beer is the company’s best-selling product.
She described the hop as having flavors of guava, passionfruit, grapefruit, orange zest, dank earth and lemongrass.
The beer also won gold in the Sessionable Hoppy Beers category of the 2017 Oregon Beer Awards.
Solberg said Indie Hops has been getting a lot of questions about Strata, especially since Fort George Brewery used it in its summer seasonal 3-Way IPA.
Word about Strata has spread very organically, he said.
Since the first crops of Strata in 2016 and 2017 were mostly at a trial run scale, Solberg said the 2018 harvest will be the first with which the company will able to really launch into the market.
“We’re really convinced it’s a hop that has a place. It has a unique and captivating aroma,” he said.