(Silverton, Oregon, USA) – Jim Solberg plucks a pale green cone from a hop vine and rubs it between his palms. This simple act breaks open the yellow oil glands inside the flower and warms them, releasing a world of aromas. To the untrained nose, the scent is pungent, unusual, perhaps reminiscent of citrus or a flower. But to Solberg, a specialist from Indie Hops, words such as tart rhubarb, tropical fruit, sassafras and cotton candy come to mind. He cups his hands, lifts them to his face, and inhales deeply. “I love that smell,” he says. “I never get tired of it.”
This is a ritual that plays out time and again in a state known for innovative hops with aromas and flavors the world has never experienced in beer before. These hops are the building blocks supporting the burgeoning local microbrewing industry. Farmers are seeing a spike in demand for hops, and entrepreneurs have found a niche growing specialty hops for avant-garde beers.