Researchers hop right to new project

The federal government has awarded $220,000 in grants to Vancouver’s Langara College for scientific research into using feral hops for brewing beer in B.C.’s burgeoning craft brewing industry.

Lillooet’s HOOH (Harvesters of Organic Hops) is collaborating with Langara on one component of the project which involves analyzing the lineage of B.C. hops to support new product development.

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Two biology instructors and one chemistry instructor are studying feral hops to see whether they might be:

 1) unique

2) useful for brewing

3) more resistant to disease and

4) able to grow in a B.C. climate.

Another part of the two-year project involves detecting beer spoilage and yeast degradation. Lower Mainland-based Parallel 49 Brewing is involved in that aspect of the research.

Langara spokesperson Mark Dawson told the News that historically, there was a large hop-growing industry in the Fraser Valley and that when the hops were being transported, seeds would blow off and grow wild along the railway lines.

He said HOOH’s Sam Quinlan, who is also a professional bird biologist, is participating in the project to help determine if the wild hops are good for brewing and if they’ve evolved genetically.

“If they come across a unique species that is good for brewing, that would bring out a  flavour, essentially that would be a new beer,” explained Dawson. “It would be the kind of thing that can’t be replicated or would take a long, long time to replicate in a brewery.”

Dawson added that the applications of the current research could also be used in the future with cannabis. “There are similar parallels that botanists and biologists could learn from in that research.”

Project funding comes from the National Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC).

The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) supports university students in their advanced studies, promotes and supports discovery research, and fosters innovation by encouraging Canadian companies to participate and invest in postsecondary research projects. NSERC researchers are on the vanguard of science, building on Canada’s long tradition of scientific excellence.

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