Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Gov'ment Hops

The USDA is a huge entity, monitoring our food, agriculture and the natural resources associated with and produced in relation to them.  Most people's experiences with the USDA are related to food labeling and quality control.  The USDA is particularly relevant to brewing science, as ingredients that make up our simple beverage of choice should always be evaluated for cleanliness and quality.  They also breed and hybridize plants with the intention of making them more disease resistant or viable under different growing conditions.

However, there is a lesser-known research arm of the USDA that strives to solve the everyday food and agricultural problems of average Americans.  One way they aim to do so is by providing access to the National Germplasm Cloning Repository.  The average American can request seeds and cuttings from a variety of different cultivars like pears, blackberries, strawberries, quince, gooseberries and hops among others.  Availability is limited, but those interested in researching experimental varieties of plants can make free requests on the ARS website.  In early March I made a request for three hop cultivars, hoping to grow them to maturity and use the hops in homebrew.  I had pretty much forgotten about the request, when today I received a package with my cultivars and growing medium included!  Here's what I received and what I know about them:
Gov'ment hops.

Hallertauer Magnum

Sometimes just called Magnum, this is the familiar and popular bittering hop with German aroma and flavor characteristics derived from Mittlefrüher and Galena.  American grown versions are more correctly labeled Yakima Magnum.  11.0 - 16.0% AAU range.


Very similar to Saaz and used primarily in lager beers for flavor and aroma.  Also known as "Golden Hops" due to its cone coloration.  3.0 - 5.5% AAU range.


A descendant of Cluster bred originally in 1968 as a disease-resistant bittering hop, but no longer commercially viable.  6.0 - 10.0% AAU range.


  1. Funny you should post about this. I did it last year and got about 6 different species from around the world. I bought the growing media, rooting compound and enclosure.

    I was horribly unsuccessful with them all dying in about 3 weeks. A few started showing a chance at growing roots. Hopefully you will have better luck. Please keep me updated because I want to try again next year when I have a house to control my growing better.

    1. I'll let you know. I've heard/read of similar problematic outcomes when starting with a cutting as opposed to a rhizome. The package caught me unawares and I haven't figured out exactly how I'll get them planted and started, but hopefully I'll have some success.

  2. This is very cool. A bit late in the growing season, though--I'd be surprised if you're able to harvest a crop this year. What USDA charge you?

    1. Agreed about the poor timing. I don't expect much for a while (if at all) because I'm starting with cuttings as opposed to rhizomes. As far as cost goes it's totally free! You just log on, pick the varieties you want and submit your request.


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