Hops and Dreams Coming True for American Brewers

Boston is known for its baked beans and clam chowder, but at one point the city had the greatest number of breweries per capita.  Whether (or when) the city will make that claim again we don’t know, but The Samuel Adams Brewery is doing their best to support burgeoning breweries with their Hops Sharing program.

Hops are used for two primary reasons in brewing beer: bitterness and aroma.  The bitterness of hops is used to offset the malty characteristics of the grain used in the brewing process.  Bitter hops are added early on in the process, where they release flavorful acids into the sweet and malty beer.  Aromatic hops are added near or at the end of the boil, and tend to collect in the beer’s “head” or foam.

According to Jim Koch, founder of Sam Adams, many craft brewers and hop dealers face difficulties in obtaining certain new and very in-demand hops used in IPAs (India Pale Ale beers) and other hoppy beers (which have bitter and malty flavors), despite having received loans from the Brewing the American Dream program – a micro-loan program set up by Sam Adams to encourage low-income brewing entrepreneurs.

Thus the impetus for the Hops Sharing program – which started in 2008 – to make hops available to smaller brewers who are in greater need.  “We want to help prioritize hops for brewers who really need them,” says Koch.

Under the program hops are sold for a lower price and are distributed to nearby brewers.  In order to fulfill the many requests for the hops to different brewers, the company allows each brewer a certain number of boxes of hops before it grants anymore additional boxes to a brewer.  The purpose behind this sharing program is to fill a gap in supply and demand for the small craft beer industry who need hop varieties – perhaps sold out in the last crop year. (Sam Adams, with its larger purchasing power and market share can negotiate with growers in a way that many small breweries cannot.)  That way, more independent brewers can have access to the ingredients they need, and consumers can try even more varieties of beers.

Sam Adams and its Boston Beer Museum is one of the remaining places in the city where one can learn about Massachusetts’ brewing history and toast the legacy by trying sample varieties of beer during the Sam Adams Brewery Tour.  The Brewery is in Boston’s Jamaica Plain section, which, along with neighboring Roxbury, was home to about three-quarters of Boston’s breweries in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Perhaps one day, through the Hops Sharing program, the smell of hops roasting will once again dominate the neighborhood.


Diana Mai

Summer 2012 Boston Food Warrior

This post is from one of the interns in the Real Time Farms Food Warrior Internship Program. These interns are collecting data, pictures, and video on the growing practices of our nation’s farms, gathering food artisans’ stories, and documenting farmers markets. We all deserve to know where our food comes from! Boring legalese we feel we must include: this was written by a real live person who has their own opinions, which we value, but that do not necessary reflect, though they may (or may not), reflect the values and opinions of Real Time Farms. That is for you to guess and us to know.

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2 Responses to Hops and Dreams Coming True for American Brewers

  1. patti miller says:

    Love this news! Thanks!

  2. Tammy says:

    That’s an impressive program. Can you imagine if other industry giants decided to help out the small local businesses in a similar way? Thanks for sharing this.

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