Get to know your Beershed

October 24, 2012 at 5:08 pm

Recently I came upon this cool map that combines two things that consume a large part of my time, making maps and brewing beer.  The map starts off with the standard beer brewing description and a visual interpretation of the basic formula of the ingredients that constitute a beer.  The map provides spatial information on three of the four main ingredients along with some facts about the production of each. Below the map is a pictogram depicting worldwide hop production by Country.

I think this map is very well done as it very easy to visualize each ingredient of the beer and where they comes from within the Country.  The layout of the graphic strikes a fine balance of color, cartography, and information making for an easy to read, polished looking product.

After taking a look closer at the map of America’s beershed  three things struck me as interesting.  First, while I knew that Oregon and Washington were responsible for a large percentage of American hop production, I was always under the impression that Idaho had large swaths of land dedicated to growing the crop as well.  I associated Idaho with highly mechanized hop operations in support of the Big Three’s beer production.  While this maybe the case based upon this map it appears the growing areas in Idaho are far smaller and much more concentrated than I ever imagined.

The second thing that struck me as somewhat odd was the lack of any malting plants east of the Mississippi. While its clear the large majority of the barley is grown out west, specifically the Northern Plains and the Pacific Northwest regions, one would think based on the map there is enough local barley production to warrant a malting plant in the Mid Atlantic region.  Furthermore from a distribution and logistics standpoint there would seem to be a need to be closer to the large amount of breweries located up and down the east coast.

Lastly I never knew that China was responsible for producing such a large percentage of the worldwide hop supply.  While many of us have brewed with German, American, or other European hops I would venture to bet many have never brewed with Chinese hops.  I find it strange that Chinese hops constitute 14% of the worldwide supply yet I have never seen them available for purchase, mentioned in any recipes,  and after spending sometime searching the internet, it appears there is little to no information available on Chinese hop varieties and associated flavor characteristics.  Oddly enough in this months BYO issue there is an article about the homebrewing movement in China and one of the provided recipes mentions the use of the Xinjiang hop.