DOES IT MATTER WHERE HOPS ARE GROWN?
1 hop & recipe
4 distinct growing regions
4 unique beers
An open letter from JE Paino:
March 3, 2016 – Sacramento, CA
We’ve been working a long time on these “Does It Matter? IPA’s” and I’d like to give you a brief historical context on Hops, Beer, and what drives us here at Ruhstaller.
1916 – 2,000+ 100 years ago, the US Beer landscape consisted of just over 2,000 breweries. The majority of these were small and local (much like Sacramento’s beer scene today), a handful were regional, none were national.
1945 – 400+ By 1945 that number was down to 400+.
1970 – 3 By 1970 it was fewer than 100…but in all reality 3 breweries dominated with over 90% of the market…Bud, Coors, and Miller.
Two Major Developments enabled this and also led to the migration of the Hop Industry from Sacramento and other places in California (Hopland, Santa Rosa, Pleasanton, etc) to the Pacific Northwest – Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and Canada.
- By 1950, most homes had TV’s allowing advertisers to communicate effectively to large groups of people at once…and the mother of all ad-buys was the Super Bowl – begun in 1967
- In 1956 the Eisenhower Interstate System began construction, making it possible to move product and goods efficiently throughout the US.
The Big 3 breweries came to dominate primarily because they advertised and transported their products better than anyone else. If they could save a dollar someplace (for example in a pound of hops) and buy more Super Bowl ads or purchase more efficient trucks, they were better off. At the same time, these 3 breweries emphasized hops less and less in their beers as they tried to appeal to more and more consumers…lowering the quantity of hops in their beers (Budweiser’s IBU dropped from 15 to 6 between the 1940s and the 1970s). The hop industry obliged and moved out of California to areas where land, labor, water, regulations, etc were less expensive and less cumbersome allowing growers and their brokers to pass on additional savings to their brewery customers…enabling more ads and trucks to be purchased…and on it went.
To be clear, the Hop Industry did not leave California because of quality…it left because of economics, it left because Super Bowl Ads and the Eisenhower Interstate System became more important to breweries than the taste of their beer.
Today, Ruhstaller and several other growers and brewers in California are working hard to revive the California Hop Industry because we think it does matter where hops are grown….but enough about history and what we think…here’s an opportunity for you to decide if all this matters.