B.C. Beer Blog

The who, what, where, when, why, and how of B.C. craft beer

Molson Scoops Prized Sartori Hops

with 19 comments

Sartori Cedar Ranch hop harvest.

Cresting the hill, a vista unfolds much changed since I last visited five years ago. Once an open field and a vision in the mind of Christian Sartori, the land is now covered by trellises draped with verdant boas sporting clusters of aromatic hops, hops that gave rise to Driftwood’s legendary Sartori Harvest IPA.

When I first paid a visit to Chris Sartori’s secluded Columbia Valley ranch, I was joined by two brewers and a brewery owner. The hop crisis had hit and I was hoping that by introducing Chris to our craft brewers, they would establish a long-term relationship that would both reduce the financial risk of his venture and help create for them a more reliable hop supply.

Sartori Harvest IPA

Unfortunately, this hasn’t quite happened. Most of the Sartori hops are not destined for craft beer but to make Molson Export. So while some of our brewers are still going as far as New Zealand to play with new hop varietals, our own local resource is largely being diluted in industrial lager. Given that the inspiration for starting the Sartori hop yard was because the big breweries had the buying power to guarantee their supply while many of the craft brewers struggled, it is not without a little bit of irony that Molson is underwriting Sartori Harvest IPA.

Since my first visit here, there has been a tremendous growth in our craft beer scene because of the growing support for our local brewers. Well, our hop farmers need the same support but from our brewers. This will allow them to grow along with the industry, ensuring BC terroir gets into BC beer.

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19 Responses

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  1. That is horrible news. Why use great hops for shit beer? It just does not compute.

    mikescraftbeer

    September 20, 2013 at 4:29 pm

    • Because aside from Driftwood, Granville Island, Hoyne and Parallel 49 for their limited-release wet-hopped ales, Molson is the only other brewery buying Sartori hops—most of the crop. Chris would be happy to sell to more craft breweries, work closely with them, if they want his hops.

      BCbrews

      September 20, 2013 at 9:55 pm

      • … and Hoyne too, right? :p

        cjm

        September 27, 2013 at 1:01 pm

      • If they deliver to Driftwood and GIB, how can Molson write this on hopsstory.com: “Meet the Sartori family – passionate farmers in BC’s Fraser Valley, who grow top-quality hops EXCLUSIVELY for Molson Export.”
        Does this mean that the other breweries get lesser quality?

        Frank_Z

        September 28, 2013 at 10:08 am

        • Well Granville Island Brewing is owned by Molson for one. Maybe they exclusively get the hops pellets. Maybe Driftwoods wet hop does not count to Molson.

          mikescraftbeer

          September 28, 2013 at 1:52 pm

        • If you taste the wet-hopped ales produced by Driftwood, Granville Island, Hoyne, et. al., I think you will find the quality is not less. And if you try Molson Export, the hop character is going to be substantially less than the aforementioned. Nevertheless, in the larger scheme of things, a small seasonal release of a wet-hopped ale—although Christmas in September to beer geeks—is completely off the radar of the general public. Therefore, Molson can get away with this—not quite exclusive, but close enough!

          BCbrews

          September 28, 2013 at 2:03 pm

  2. Completely agree with your statement that BC hop farmers do need to be supported by BC Brewers. Why stop at throwing some BC grown hops in a limited release or the odd cask. Go all the way. That said, BC hop farmers need to work with the breweries and allow them to support them, ie give brewers a chance to buy hops and don’t screw them over. Fortunately, there is other hop farms being developed, such as the guys at Bitterbine, who want to work with BC Breweries.

    Mark

    September 20, 2013 at 8:14 pm

    • You know of BC hop growers who didn’t give local craft brewers a chance to buy their hops?

      BCbrews

      September 20, 2013 at 11:04 pm

      • Yes, I had previously bought hops from Chris for my brewery. I went to his farm, visited with him, and tried to develop a relationship with him. I was not looking for hops for just a wet hopped batch of beer, I was looking for hops for all my brews. My July visit to the farm went great, there would be no problem getting the hops. Come September, everything had changed. He had sold all his hops and there was none available to buy. Leaving me to look for a new hop supplier.

        Mark

        September 30, 2013 at 7:22 am

        • That is really bad business lieing to people.

          mikescraftbeer

          September 30, 2013 at 7:36 am

        • Oh, that’s not cool at all!

          BCbrews

          September 30, 2013 at 11:07 am

        • I believe that in the instance of Mark, he had expressed interest but had not specified variety or amount. July to September is a substantial period of time in the life of a hop producer and many variables are capable of changing in that period of time. By September the crop was indeed sold. It was not lying and it is unfortunate that Mark’s statement was presented that way….

          Sandy

          July 14, 2014 at 10:45 am

  3. It is tough if you are a small-scale producer of hops. Most craft brewers prefer pellets and need the Alpha Acid and oil percentages at a minimum. The cost of getting the tests can can be fairly high if all you have is 30kg per variety. But a small brewery willing to work with a small grower could make some very interesting and good one-off brews.

    Steve

    September 27, 2013 at 3:19 pm

    • Quite right, Steve! That is why I am trying to encourage the BC craft brewers to support the growers. Local partnerships can lead to very interesting results from the closer working relationship. The brewers get this from working with hospitality establishments. It also works back the other way in the chain.

      BCbrews

      September 28, 2013 at 2:07 pm

    • Just as an FYI…Chris sends his hops off every year to be tested down in the US and the alpha/beta/psi results are phenominal. My understanding is that Chis no longer provides to Molson. The challenge I believe was in the fact that when he initially explored diversification for his farm and with that the production of hops, he got some enthusiastic commitments from the smaller brewers. It was enough incentive for him to create and sustain a high quality product but when it came to that first harvest….there was little interest. From what I understand Chris beat the pavement, calling, emailing and sending off samples to everyone possible between BC and Ontario. Molson (good, bad or indifferent) stepped up to the plate and offered to purchase the entire crop less that of what was already promised to brewers such as Driftwood. Chris’ intention and hope and vision was always to create a superior product that would be available to the BC craft brewers. A trip to the Sartori farm and the hop field are enough to tell anyone that he has achieved and surpassed his vision! …and in addition to that, Sartori now has a pelletizer and can pellitize right on the farm! Support local growers and give him a call with your orders!

      Renalda

      August 18, 2014 at 1:13 pm

      • Good to know, looking forward to more beers made with these good hops.
        There was a vine from Sartori as decoration at the bottom of the stage in the sand at the Missions Springs craft event on the weekend. Really nice cones, the one in my backward have a long way to go, but I picked a bag before the vine was discarded and brewed an IPA. 🙂

        Frank_Z

        August 19, 2014 at 12:49 am

  4. At Longwood Brewery out of Nanaimo, our Big One IPA is brewed only from Vancouver Island grown hops. If the availability of pellets is the issue for craft brewers, I understand. We are all busy and leaf hops can take some extra time to deal with, but we are talking about Craft beer here, aren’t we?

    Pete K

    November 11, 2013 at 2:14 pm

  5. Sounds like BC craft brewers should start establishing their own dedicated hop growers. Much like how wineries have their own dedicated vineyards. Otherwise the big brewers with the shit beer and big bags of cash will always buy out all the hops.

    JAB

    May 10, 2014 at 10:40 am

    • Some of us are doing what we can to produce quality hops in small lots. I have 320 plants in 11 varieties and would really enjoy selling all of them for wet hopping less, of course, those I want to put in my own home brews.

      steve

      May 20, 2014 at 9:37 am


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