While Washington State is the largest producer of hops in the United States, growing more than 43,000 acres of hops each year, many do not know that Oregon was once the nation’s hop capital. Around 1850, farmer’s realized the state’s great hop growing potential and planted the first hops on the West Coast.
Like Germany, Oregon is located on the 45th parallel and has rich soil, a mild climate, abundant rainfall and sufficient irrigation resources. Due to these favorable characteristics, small 20-acre family farms quickly expanded through the early 1900s. Men, women and children from diverse racial, economic and geographic backgrounds flocked to Oregon’s hop country to take advantage of the abundant need for hop pickers during the harvest season. Workers not only enjoyed decent wages and reliable income, but also entertainment and lodging, as farmers often offered harvest celebrations, hop festivals and camping facilities. Oregon became the nation’s largest hop producer, harvesting more than 30,000 acres each year. At the time, the hop variety Cluster occupied roughly 90% of Oregon’s hop acreage.
The decline in Oregon’s hop acreage came during the 1930s when the hop industry boom slowed and downey mildew spread throughout the growing region. This led to the formalization of Oregon State University’s hop research program, in partnership with the USDA, that still contributes vital research to disease prevention and control today.
Today, Oregon is the second largest hop producer in the US with 7,669 acres strung for the 2016 harvest season, predominately within the lush Willamette Valley. It is the major producer of Crystal hops, which have been one of the top ten most popular varieties among craft brewers since 2010. Crystal is a low-alpha aroma hop derived from Hallertau Mittelfruh, Cascade, Brewer’s Gold and Early Green and is defined by earthy and herbal aroma characteristics great for Belgian-style ales, IPAs and Pilsners. Like Crystal, many aroma hops enjoy the Willamette Valley’s moderate temperatures during the growing season, including Sterling, Liberty and of course, Mt. Hood, named after northern Oregon’s volcanic mountain.
To place an order for Cluster, Crystal, Sterling or Mt. Hood, please visit our Spot Availability page.
*Historical photo courtesy of Oregon State University Archives, Gerald W. Williams Collec., Willamette Valley album, circa 1915