According to studies conducted by the Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke), Finnish hop varieties are fairly unique on a global scale. Some of them are also intriguing considering brewing. The long-term goal is to select the best varieties for cultivation considering their growth properties and brewing capabilities.
The hop varieties were discovered on the basis of information shared by regular people about hop varieties established in Finland. More than 1,300 reports were received between 2014 and 2018, on the basis of which people were asked to send samples of leaves and cones for analysis. The goal is to study a total of 1,000 hop varieties.
Unique Finnish hops
Luke has studied the diversity of Finnish hops and also verified the hereditary uniqueness of the hops selected for further studies. Finnish hops have adapted well to our climate conditions: they flower early in order to produce a high yield.
“Finnish hops showed to be genetically authentic in the world. We found 260 unique ones what is surprisingly lot. Nobody expected that”, says senior scientist Lidija Bitz.
The suitability of Finnish hop varieties for brewing has also been studied. The most significant chemical compounds considering brewing were analysed from the cone samples sent by regular people.
“Fairly interesting hop varieties for brewing were discovered from the samples. Some of the hops resemble commercial varieties in terms of their aroma profiles”, says research scientist Juha-Matti Pihlava.
Only the most resistant proceed to the next round
Of all the studied varieties, 26 were selected for further studies. Next, 21 hop strains were gathered selected for therapy treatments and propagation. Therapy treatments are needed as hops are sensitive to plant diseases.
“During the heat treatment stage, hops are already growing rapidly. Before micropropagation for cultivation testing, they undergo virus tests”, says research scientist Jaana Laamanen.
In a few years, these varieties can hopefully be sold to nurseries and cultivated on fields. This requires more brewing and cultivation studies.
Finnish hops raise interest among farmers and breweries
Luke has also studied experiences of farmers in the cultivation of hops and the ideas of brewers regarding the attractiveness of Finnish hops in brewing.
Hops are not cultivated widely in Finland. In 2016, the cultivated area was less than one hectare. However, the area tripled in 2017 and continued to increase in 2018.
Of the 29 breweries that responded to Luke’s brewery survey, nearly half would be willing to use Finnish aroma hops in their production and buy them if they were commercially available.
“Competition in the rapidly growing microbrewery sector is fierce. Breweries are looking for a competitive edge from specialisation. Microbreweries have also been established in extreme cultivation regions of malt crops in North Karelia and North Ostrobothnia. These are regions where Nordic hops are regarded as an opportunity to stand out from the rest by using local ingredients and aromas”, says senior scientist Susanne Heiska.