The NorCal Hop Growers Alliance values community involvement, and believes that supporting ongoing research and education is great way to strengthen our community ties. We have partnered with Sonoma State University's Chemistry Department to develop methods for analyzing local hops. SSU has already received grant funding for ongoing hop research and hopes to develop a program for comparing the alpha acids and aroma oils resulting from different varieties of hops grown in different local micro-climates.
We believe that transparency and reflection are important farming principles and are working to create a database to track and analyze varying growing practices, yields, and product quality.
NorCal HGA member, Warm Spring Wind Farm plays an important role in providing field education opportunities for programs like the SSU Craft Beer Appreciation Certificate Program at their Sonoma Coast Hopyard, and offers various courses on growing hops that are free to NorCal HGA members.
Wild heritage hops that were cultivated from the banks of the Russian River provide a unique opportunity to discover flavors and aromas that truly reflect our growing region. We have taken initial steps to create a breeding program that sources wild hops from all over California in attempts at creating new varieties that will be specifically suited for our growing conditions.
Hop plants can unfortunately be affected by a variety of diseases. Several of these are viral. We have found many examples of rhizomes that are infected and eventually lead to diseased plants - for which there is no cure. The surrounding soil is affected, and it is difficult to eradicate the virus from the hop yard.
Therefore we recommend starting your hop yard with plants that are certified disease-free. These plants are created from plant stock that is genetically tested for diseases and guaranteed to be virus-free. There are a handful of nurseries, such as Sandy Ridge Farms, that provide these plant starts. Although the upfront costs are slightly more than rhizomes, the cost savings down the line are significant. There are also several more varieties of hop available from these reputable nurseries than are available from suppliers that sell rhizomes. The wide variety of hops available from Sandy Ridge can be found here.