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Super Bowl Parties un-Beerable Without Oregon HopsSalem-News.com
According to the Oregon Brewers Guild, there are more breweries per capita in Portland than any other city in the world.
(SALEM) - Several hours before the Chicago Bears line up against the Indianapolis Colts in this year's Super Bowl in Miami, beer will begin to be poured throughout the country on what is considered the number one party event of the year.
The great flavor of beer can be traced back to agriculture in the Pacific Northwest.
Washington and Oregon rank first and second respectively in U.S. production of hops -- the key ingredient in beer -- and are responsible for 94 percent of the nation's hop production.
Whether it is the big name brews consumed nationwide or the crafted beers brewed locally, party-goers can thank Northwest hop growers for making it all possible.
"I don't think people pick up a can of nationally-branded beer and realize they may be consuming something that at least partly comes from Oregon," says Laura Barton, trade manager with the Oregon Department of Agriculture. "But there is a good chance that on Super Bowl Sunday, you are going to taste a bit of Oregon."
Some of the national statistics associated with Super Bowl Sunday are staggering.
More than $55 million is spent on food and beverages on the days leading up to the Super Bowl and, presumably, consumed on that Sunday.
More than 125 million Americans participate in Super Bowl parties. Beer sales increase 15 percent beginning two weeks prior to the Super Bowl.
An additional $11.8 million is spent on beer purchases during this time.
Super Bowl Sunday is second only to Thanksgiving in the amount of food and beverages consumed in a single day.
While beer consumption is certainly year around, Super Bowl Sunday holds a special place in the hearts of brewers and hop growers.
"Traditionally, people think about the Super Bowl as just a sports event," says Barton. "In reality, it has become a huge retail event and it reflects on products that we produce in Oregon, like beer."
It all starts with those who grow the hop plant. There are only a couple dozen families that grow hops in Oregon, but they are responsible for more than 5,000 acres of production,
This past year, Oregon growers produced 8.8 million pounds of hops at a value of $23 million.
Only Washington's $88 million is higher when it comes to U.S. hop production. Oregon hop production increased 10 percent in 2006.
The hop plant's flower, which ultimately provides beer its pleasant bitter flavor, makes its way to brewers statewide and nationwide.
Among the large national breweries that rely on Oregon hops is Anheuser Busch and its popular Budweiser brand.
"While we are very proud of our craft breweries in Oregon– an industry that is continuing to grow– a majority of our hops actually go to the big breweries that we all know," says Barton. "Those beers are consumed all over the country and all over the world."
Barton says the sheer volume of Oregon hops purchased by the big national breweries keeps the local industry going.
"Without those big guys, our hop industry would be pretty small, actually," she says. "Also, those larger companies have come to Oregon and supported our festivals and other gatherings."
During the Super Bowl, not everybody settles for Budweiser, Coors, or Miller.
Many Oregonians are now consuming locally-produced beers, including so-called craft beers and microbrews.
Most people think of Milwaukee or Munich when it comes to naming big beer cities of the world.
But, according to the Oregon Brewers Guild, there are more breweries per capita in Portland than any other city in the world.
Currently, 38 breweries operate in the Portland metro area.
Other highlights of Oregon's brewing industry include:
The beer cooler at the local grocery store in Oregon often features a wide variety of brews, from national and imported brands, to an increasingly wide selection of local products. The expanded offerings reflect the new interest in Oregon-made beers.
"There is such a strong interest and demand in craft made items, whether it is cheese, breads, or beers," says Barton. "Craft beers fit right in there and we have some very creative brewers in Oregon."
Specifically, Oregon has gained a growing reputation for quality IPAs– Indian pale ales. These distinct beers tend to emphasize the flavor of the hops.
So as football fans crack open a cold one this coming Super Bowl Sunday, they might want to think about where that great flavor may come from.
"When they are enjoying that beer, chances are they are supporting Oregon agriculture and the growers who produce the hops and other ingredients," says Barton. "And as if they don't already know, it is a great consumable beverage to go with whatever foods and snacks they may be enjoying on Super Bowl Sunday."
So let's all toast a beer can, mug, or stein to those Pacific Northwest farmers who just happen to grow an essential ingredient to one of the most consumed beverages around -- the hop.
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