Research seeks to tap into craft-brewing potential of Maritime wild hops

Two federal research scientists are working with varieties of wild hops found in the Maritimes to see if some of their unique aromas can eventually be incorporated in craft beers.

Jason McCallum and Aaron Mills have spent the last two years searching out wild hops that grow mainly along creek beds and heavily forested areas in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island.

McCallum said in addition to the native wild hops, there are also hops varieties from Europe that have flourished since their introduction by settlers during the early colonization of North America.

As a result, the plants grow relatively abundantly and are easily recognizable to someone who knows what they are looking for.

“Just driving around you can spot it in your car at 80 kilometres an hour …. Some of the sites we found were just through random road scouting like that,” McCallum said.

The plants can be quite tall – growing as high as 10 metres – and they can be found climbing up dead trees, utility pole guide wires and bridge embankments. Their leaves look similar to grape leaves.

“We often found the hops growing up apple trees on old farmsteads,” Mills said.

The pair found more than 60 different wild-growing hop populations and subsequently planted samples at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s Harrington Research Farm near Charlottetown.

They’ve since been researching the chemical composition of the varieties to determine their origin and to see which hold promise for the brewing industry.

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