Fresh Hops – RipeLocker Facilitates Conventional Shipping and Season Extension

Introduction of Study
Beer is traditionally brewed with dry hops. However, with the advent of “micro-breweries” and the many diverse types of beer that are brewed (e.g., IPAs, pale ales, and lagers), demand for fresh hops has increased.

Hop cones are highly perishable flowers that lose their beer-producing capability for micro-brews within days of being harvested from the vine. Brewers located within one day of driving distance from where fresh hops are grown and harvested will pick up these fresh hops within hours of harvest and plan to brew with them within twelve hours of pickup. Brewers located beyond one day’s driving distance are forced to air freight the hops. Since the hops are not air-freighted under refrigeration, usable yield can be as low as 50%. Despite the logistical and hop quality challenges, brewers will pay as high as $18.00/lb. (hops + next day air freight) to be able to brew fresh hop beer.

Objectives of the Study
To test RipeLocker’s ability to hold fresh hops for up to 60 days. Success would replace airfreight with conventional refrigerated truck and ocean shipping resulting in significantly lower prices for the micro-brewery customer. Lower prices combined with season extension will significantly increase the market opportunity for the grower/packer. In addition, season extension provides an opportunity for customers to receive a mix of varieties that is not available today.

Relevant Issues for the Case Study
Hop aroma, oil, and acid content play an important role in beer making. Fresh hops stored in the RipeLockers need to maintain their quality to become a commercially viable storage alternative.

Research Methods & Instruments
Multiple varieties of hops were stored inside RipeLockers. Fresh Hop quality (aroma, oil, and acid content) was evaluated at 14 and 25, and 40 days after harvest. (Figure 1)  Beer was made with fresh hops stored in the RipeLockers for 40 days. (Pic 1)

Economic Assessment
Growers can significantly increase their margins by shifting volume from dry to fresh markets. Micro-brewers can significantly reduce delivered costs and have extended access to fresh hops after harvest.


Economic Model Assumptions

  • Production: A typical acre produces 12,000 pounds of fresh hops. It takes 6 pounds fresh to yield 1 pound dry.
  • FOB Pricing: Fresh hops have been sold as high as $19.50/lb. due to the high cost of airfreight. Dry hops are generally sold for $9.00/lb.
  • Replacing air freight with conventional refrigerated trucks and ocean shipping will significantly reduce costs for the micro-brewery. This combined with season extension and the option to order a mixed variety of hops should result in a sizable new market opportunity for the grower/packer.

Economic Model Conclusions


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Fresh Hops – RipeLocker Facilitates Conventional Shipping and Season Extension

Fresh Hops (Comet) Loaded In RipeLocker at Day 0

Fresh Hops (Comet) after 40 days in RipeLocker

Fresh Hop Total Oil and Acid Content

Figure 1: Total oil and acid content for fresh hops stored 14 and 25 days in RipeLockers

Fresh Hops (El Dorado) 24 Days after Harvest (22 Days in RipeLockers + 2 Days Shipping)
Fresh Hops (El Dorado) 24 Days after Harvest (22 Days in RipeLockers + 2 Days Shipping)

Close Up of Internal Fresh Hops (El Dorado) - hops maintained its aroma and brewing quality out of storage

Marketed Fresh Hops Beer

Pic 1: Beer made with Fresh Hops (El Dorado ®) 24 days after harvest (22 days in RipeLockers + 2 days shipping)