Untapping terroir: Regional variation in hop flavor profiles

Thanks in part to the push for localized supply chains, U.S. hop production is becoming more regionally diverse. Differentiation in geographies implies changes in growing climates and other environmental factors known to alter the flavor profiles of agricultural commodities used in food and drink. We used chemical analyses, blind taste tests, and a choice experiment with craft brewers to identify whether the same hop cultivar (Chinook) grown in different regions of the United States induces a unique sensory profile in hops and beer. The chemical analyses, including a terpene analysis and unknowns analysis, suggest differences in hop sensory profiles. Most notably, of the ten terpenes detected across our four Chinook hop samples, we found that two of the samples lacked alpha-pinene, a terpene associated with pine aromas. Blind taste test results (n = 59), however, showed no statistically significant differences across beer sensory scores. Thus, while chemical analyses provide preliminary evidence of hop terroir, the results of the blind taste test were inconclusive. Finally, to examine the marketing potential of terroir, we used a choice experiment to examine whether brewers are willing to pay a premium for local hops. We found that, holding all else constant, brewers in our sample were willing to pay up to 35% more for local hops—a premium that could be driven by a preference to support the local economy, a belief that the consumer is willing to pay a premium for beers using local hops, and a perception that local hops have a local terroir.​

Staples, A.J., Sirrine, J.R., Adams, A., Mull, A., Stuhr, S., & Malone, T. (2022). Untapping terroir: Experimental evidence of regional variation in hop flavor profiles. Technical Quarterly, 59(1), 7-16.

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