Beer Birthday: Ralph Olson

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Today is Ralph Olson’s 66th birthday. Ralph was the general manager/co-owner of HopUnion, a co-op that supplies hops to many of the craft breweries. Ralph’s pretty much retired but can still be seen at occasional beer events throughout the country. He’s been a good friend to and very supportive of the craft beer industry. Join me in wishing Ralph a very happy birthday.

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Ralph Olson, the Big Cheese from HopUnion. If you look carefully in between his “Sponsor” and “Exhibitor” badge you can see his title really is officially “the Big Cheese.

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Ralph and me at the end of the brewer’s reception at GABF in 2007.

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Dave Keene, from the Toronado, Dave Pyle, Ralph and Becky Pyle, who are also with HopUnion, along with my friend Dave Suurballe.

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Ralph sandwiched between Jessica, the former event coordinator for the AOB and Chad Kennedy, brewer at Laurelwood Public House & Brewery in Portland, Oregon at GABF in 2006.

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With Natalie Cilurzo of Russian River Brewing, who’s accepting an award at the Alpha King Hop Challenge in 2006. If you look closely, you can find the award money.

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Ralph with the other HopUnion Ralph, Ralph Woodall, and Rob Widmer, the younger half of Widmer Brothers Brewing, at the 15th Anniversary Party for the Celebrator Beer News.

10 Years Ago: Hunt’s Hop Tea

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It’s hard to believe the Bulletin has been going for over ten years, just over eleven to be exact (not including on the family blog from a couple of years before that). But this post is from exactly ten years ago, in 2007, and I was reminded of it yesterday when a homebrew blogger linked to it in a discussion of hop utilization. Anyway, it was interesting to see again, and since it was exactly a decade, I thought I’d post Hunt’s Hop Tea again. It is, coincidentally, National Hot Tea Day today. Enjoy.


A few weeks ago while helping Moonlight with their hop harvest, owner/brewer Brian Hunt broke out something I’d never seen before: hop tea. Now I’ve seen regular hop tea before, I’ve even bought some at the health food store and tried it, but this was something totally different. Brian told me the idea grew out of an experiment he was doing to see how hops reacted at different temperatures, which he presented at “Hop School” a few years ago. He discovered in the process that he could make a delicious hop tea and that it varied widely depending on the temperature of the water. Here’s how it works:

  1. Put approximately two-dozen fresh hop cones in a 16 oz. mason jar.
  2. Heat water to __X__ temperature.
  3. Fill jar with heated water and seal cap.
  4. Let the water come down to ambient room temperature.
  5. Refrigerate.
  6. Drink.

There appears to be four main factors that change depending on the temperature of the water. These are:

  1. Color
  2. Float
  3. Bitterness
  4. Tannins

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Intrigued by all of this and quite curious, Brian brought out seven examples of his hop tea made with water of different temperatures: 60°, 120°, 130°, 140°, 160°, 180° and 185°. They’re shown above from lower to higher temperature, left to right.

As you can see, the lower the temperature, the more green the hops are and the water remains less cloudy. At the higher temperatures, the hops are stripped of their green, becoming brown, and the water also becomes more brown. Also, as the temperature increases, the hops lose their buoyancy and begin to sink in the water. Although you can’t see it in the photo, the hotter the water, the more hop bitterness and at the upper range, tannins begin to emerge. Here’s what I found:

  • 60°: Fresh, herbal aromas with some hop flavors, but it’s light.
  • 120°: Bigger aromas, less green more vegetal flavors.
  • 130°: Also big aromas emerging, flavors beginning to become stronger, too, but still refreshingly light.
  • 140°: More pickled, vinegary aroma, no longer subtle with biting hop character and strong flavors.
  • 160°: Very big hop aromas with strong hop flavors, too, with a touch of sweetness. Tannins are becoming evident but are still restrained.
  • 180°: Big hop and vinegary aromas, with flavors becoming too astringent and tannins becoming overpowering.
  • 185°: Vinegary aromas, way too bitter and tannins still overpowering.

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Trying each of the tea samples with Tim Clifford, now owner of Sante Adairius.

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Brian was kind enough to let me take a small bag of fresh hops with me so I could recreate his experiment at home. I had enough for four samples and made tea at 100°, 140° and 160°. Using two dozen hop cones made the jars look light so I used three-dozen in the last jar, also using 160° water. I tasted them with my wife, hoping to get a civilian opinion, too. Here’s what we found:

  • 100°: Hops still green and floating. The nose was very vegetal and reminded my wife of the water leftover in the pot after you’ve steamed vegetables like broccoli or Brussels sprouts. The mouthfeel is somewhat gritty with light, refreshing flavors and only a little bitterness, which dissipates quickly.
  • 140°: Hops turned brown, but still floating. Light hop aromas with some smokey, roasted aromas and even a hint of caramel. Fresh hop flavors with a clean finish. My wife, however, made that puckering bitter face signaling she found it repugnant.
  • 160°: Hops turned brown, but most has sunk to the bottom of the jar. Strong hop aromas and few negatives, at least from my point of view. My wife was still making that face, cursing me for dragging her into this. Hop bitterness had become more pronounced and tannins were now evident, with a lingering finish.
  • 160° Plus: This sample had 50% more hops. The hops had also turned brown but, curiously, they were still floating. The nose was vegetal with string hop aromas. With a gritty mouthfeel, the flavors were even more bitter covering the tannins just slightly, but they were still apparent, and the finish lingered bitterly.

It seems like either 140° or 160° is the right temperature. Lower than that and you don’t get enough hop character (I’m sure that’s why the hops remain green) but above that the tannins become too pronounced. It appears you have to already like big hop flavor or you’ll hate hop tea. I found it pretty enjoyable and even refreshing though it’s still probably best in small amounts. You do seem to catch a little buzz off of it, which doesn’t hurt. I’m sure the amount of hops is important and more research may be needed on that front. Brian tells me that hop pellets can also be used though I doubt the jar of tea looks as attractive using them. They have the advantage of being available year-round, of course. If you use pellets, you need only about a half-ounce for each pint jar.

If you try to make Hunt’s Hop Tea on your own, please let me know your results. And please do raise a toast to Brian Hunt’s ingenuity.

Patent No. 2226009A: Hop Separator

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Today in 1940, US Patent 2226009 A was issued, an invention of George E. Miller, assigned to the Clemens Horst Company, for his “Hop Separator.” There’s no Abstract, although in the description it includes these claims:

This invention relates to a separator. and especially to a machine for separating stems, leaves and like foreign material from picked hops.

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Patent No. 2064748A: Machine For Plucking Hops

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Today in 1871, US Patent 2064748 A was issued, an invention of George Arthur Hinds, for his “Machine For Plucking Hops.” There’s no Abstract, although in the description it includes these claims:

This invention has for its object to provide an improved machine for plucking hops, that is to say for detaching the flowers or cones from the main parts of the plants (commonly termed vines or bines).

The invention comprises, for use in such a machine, a plucker in the form of a comb-like device having notches adapted to be engaged by only the thinner stems of the plants, namely those attached to or in the immediate neighbourhood of the flowers.

The invention also comprises the combination of a plurality of the aforesaid pluckers, movable means on which the pluckers are mounted, means for suspending the hop plants in the inverted condition adjacent to the pluckers, and means for producing relative movements between the pluckers and plants.

In particular the invention comprises the combination of an endless conveyor, pluckers as aforesaid carried on this conveyor, an overhead conveyor fitted with means from which the hop plants can be suspended, the second conveyor being movable in a line parallel with a plane containing the working side of the plucker conveyor, and means for reciprocating or swinging the hop plants towards and away from the working side of the plucker conveyor.

Further the invention comprises the combination with plucker and plant conveyors, of means for producing an air stream whereby the plants are moved towards the pluckers, and means for intermittently interrupting the air stream.

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Patent No. 121902A: Improvement In Preserving And Using Hops In Brewing

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Today in 1871, US Patent 121902 A was issued, an invention of Jacob Seeger and John Boyd, for their “Improvement in Preserving and Using Hops in Brewing.” There’s no Abstract, although in the description it includes these claims:

It is well known that the active principle of hops is soon dissipated and the flavor changed or lost upon exposure to atmospheric action, and that, therefore, fresh hops command in the market two or three fold the price of hops grown the year previous. They are also readily injured by dampness, and their shipment by water is, therefore, attended with risk.

We propose by grinding or otherwise pulverizing the hops, and by then packing the same in air-tight packages to secure the following advantages in an improved article of manufacture and trade: First, the bulk is reduced at least fifty per cent. in packing the hops after being pulverized. Second, the hops pulverized and packed in air-tight vessels or packages may be stored for an indefinite length of time without deterioration as to quality, weight, or flavor. Third, the expense and labor of transportation is greatly reduced. Fourth, hops pulverized and packed in air-tight packages may be transported by Water-carriage without risk or damage by dampness. For the purpose of retail trade the pulverized hops are packed in cans or packages holding a pound, more or less, while for the convenience of large consumers, breweries, &c., the packages may be boxes or barrels. In packing pulverized hops the contents of an ordinary bale may be reduced to the dimensions of a flour-barrel, and, therefore, the labor of handling and the expense of transportation will be proportionately reduced.

The large consumer is enabled by our method to store his years supply without danger of deterioration as to quality, flavor, or weight, and with a material saving as to quantity required and space occupied. The dealer is enabled by our method to handle his hops and to ship them to any market without risk from atmospheric causes or dampness, which now makes a material advance in the price in markets remote from the place of production; or he can hold his stock over and wait an advance in price. This latter fact will tend to equalize prices and relieve the market of a glut at one time or a dearth at another.

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Patent No. 331873A: Baling Press

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Today in 1885, US Patent 331873 A was issued, an invention of Murray H. Durst, for his “Baling Press.” There’s no Abstract, although in the description it includes these claims:

My invention relates to certain improvements in balling-presses; and it consists in certain details of construction, power, and means of application, all of which will be more fully described by reference to the accompanying drawings, in which- Figure 1 is a general view of the press. Fig. 2 shows the lower part of the press with the door closed. Fig. 3 is a view of the mechanism for raising and lowering the follower. Fig. 4 is a section of the same. Fig. 5 is a vertical section of the press.

This press is especially designed for the pressing of hops, and is preferably so built that the upper end of the vertical case or box A will be on a level with or under the floor upon which the hops are contained, while the lower end, having discharge-doors B, communicates with the floor below. The follower C fits the press-box A, and has arms D extend ing Vertically upward from it and hinged to a crossbar, E, the ends of which are strongly secured to the vertical timbers F. These timbers move in vertical guides G, as shown, and when drawn down will force the follower down to the bottom of the press-box, and when raised will elevate it, so that when it arrives at a point just above the top of the box and the level of the floor with which it communicates the follower will be swung to one side about the hinges by which its supporting-timbers D are connected with the transverse bar E, before described.

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Patent No. 197744A: Improvement In Hop-Vine Stripper And Separator

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Today in 1877, US Patent 197744 A was issued, an invention of Moses C. Smith, for his “Improvement in Hop-Vine Stripper and Separator.” There’s no Abstract, although in the description it includes these claims:

This invention is in the nature of an improvement in machinery for picking or stripping hops from their vines for separating the hops from the vine-leaves; for separating or breaking up bunches or clusters, and for delivering the hops into bags ready for the kiln, the said machinery being portable, and designed for use in the field.

The invention consists in rolls of soft yielding material for feeding the vines to the stripping mechanism; of moving stripping-teeth disengaging the hops from the vines as they are fed forward, and carrying said vines forward; of a table beneath said moving teeth for receiving the vines from the feed-rolls, and made yielding, so as to avoid choking by accumulation of the vines; of a toothed revolving apron, operating in connection with a toothed bar, for delivering said hops into a chute, from which they are discharged into bags in condition for the drying-kiln, these several elements being combined as hereinafter claimed.

The invention further consists, in connection with the above-described or equivalent mechanism, in a fan located in the forward end of the machine; a fan-hood, the throat of which is guarded by a number of tongues depending from the yielding table before described, to prevent the escape of hops and leaves into the fan-casing; a perforated apron moving over rollers, and. a shaker or sieve placed beneath the said apron, and over the and the perforated apron, over which the vines pass, and between which the hops fall onto the toothed apron.

The invention also consists in arms or rests secured to the frame of the machine, and projecting laterally therefrom at either side of the feed-opening, for the purpose of permitting the stacking of the hop-poles, with the vines thereon, in convenient reach of those feeding the machine.

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Patent No. 416157A: Apparatus For Drying Hops

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Today in 1889, US Patent 416157 A was issued, an invention of Samuel Cleland Davidson, for his “Apparatus For Drying Tea, Hops, SLiced Fruit, &c.” There’s no Abstract, although in the description it includes these claims:

The object of this invention is the construction of an apparatus in which a very strong current of heated air or cool desiccated air can be used for rapidly drying tea, coffee, cocoa, cinchona, hops, sliced fruits, seeds, meal, or other such substances, on sieves or perforated trays arranged in a drying-chamber one above the other on a vertical column, and movable in successive order of rotation from bottom to top of the column without the martial being whirled by the strength of the current into heaps on the trays while in the drying-chamber, or blown away off them by it when the trays are being put into or taken out of the apparatus.

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Patent No. 3923897A: Production Of Hoplike Beverage Bittering Materials

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Today in 1975, US Patent 3923897 A was issued, an invention of Leonard R. Worden, assigned to the Kalamazoo Spice Extract Co., for his “Production of Hoplike Beverage Bittering Materials.” If the Kalamazoo Spice Extract Co. sounds familiar, that’s where Firestone Walker brewmaster Matt Brynildson worked as in intern in college and then as his first job afterwards, as a hop chemist. Here’s the Abstract:

Production of hoplike beverage bittering materials by the peracid oxidation of 3′,5′-dialkyl-2′,4′,6′-trihydroxyacylphenones to 6-acyl-2,4-dialkyl-2-hydroxycyclohexane-1,3,5-triones (tetrahydrohumulones or tetrahydro-alpha acids) and isomerization thereof to 2,4-diacyl-5-alkyl-4-hydroxycyclopentane-1,3-diones (tetrahydroisohumulones or tetrahydroiso-alpha acids).

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Patent No. EP1100865B1: Process And Apparatus For Obtaining Lupulin Products From Hops

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Today in 2003, US Patent EP 1100865 B1 was issued, an invention of Francis Lloyd Rigby, for his “Process and Apparatus for Obtaining Lupulin Products from Hops.” Here’s the Abstract:

A process and apparatus for the physical separation of lupulin from hops is provided. The process releases the lupulin glands by drying, freezing, and shaking, under specific and controlled conditions. For separating the lupulin from the hop cones a separator is provided that includes a substantially cylindrical and concentrically mounted coarse screen and fine screen. A raw hops product is received into the coarse screen that allows the coarse lupulin fraction to pass through while the coarse waste in retained within. The fine screen has a larger diameter than the enclosed coarse screen. A coarse lupulin fraction is received into the fine screen allowing the lupulin product to pass through the fine screen while the fine waste is retained within the fine screen to be discharged out the end of the fine screen. An agitator is mounted to a shaft within the separator and is utilized to beat the raw hop product. The separation process provides high yield of lupulin without sacrificing purity of product as compared to other physical separation processes. Additionally, the yield and purity of the process of the present invention compares closely to the yield and purity achieved by conventional chemical extraction methods. A superior natural hop material is thereby produced as compared to extracts, pelletized hops or baled raw hops. Lupulin can be substituted for hop extracts produced by conventional methods providing a substantial price advantage.

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