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What Craft Beer Drinkers Need To Know About Terroir

Nearly 200 years ago, French winemakers asked one of the most revolutionary questions in fermentation history.

The vineyards of Bordeaux, where the idea of terroir was born. Photo by Michael Clarke.

The vineyards of Bordeaux, where the idea of terroir was born in the early 1800s. Photo by Michael Clarke.

Why is it that some wines taste better than others, even though they’re made with the same grapes, and produced using similar methods? The answer they came up with was, the dirt. They concluded that the soil in which grapes were planted had a major influence on the quality and the flavor of wine.

They came to believe that you could literally taste the soil in a bottle of wine and called the concept, terroir.

Why Does It Matter And Who Wants To Taste Soil Anyway?

At Rogue Farms we believe that beer and spirits begins in the dirt. We’re not saying you can taste dirt in a bottle of beer. But the quality of the soil where we grow our hops, malting barley and other ingredients matters a great deal. It’s about quality and origin.

A young Revolution hop bine emerges in spring at Rogue Farms in Independence, Oregon.

A young Revolution hop bine emerges from the soil at Rogue Farms in Independence, Oregon.

Rogue Farms is in one of the finest hop growing areas of the world. Our soil is the result of eons of volcanic uplifting, massive lava flows and Ice Age floods. The annual winter floods from the Willamette River replenish our fields with moisture and add new layers of rich, alluvial soil.

We can grow just about every ingredient we need in the dirt of Rogue Farms, and grow high quality ingredients, too. That’s how good our dirt is. Good dirt means better ingredients, which in turn means better beer, spirits, ciders and sodas.

The Birth Of Grow Your Own Revolution

Back in 2007 we asked a new revolutionary question. Why doesn’t beer have terroir?

The question led us on a journey of discovery. We learned that over the years hops and barley had become commodities, their origins lost in a maze of brokers, processors, railroads and trucks. While the quality was often good, we felt something was missing. The connection between ground and glass was broken and we wanted to restore it. Because we believed in terroir.

And so we became farmers.

Rogue Farms Freedom hops at harvest time.

Rogue Farms Freedom hops at harvest time.

Terroir is more than dirt. It’s the combination of soil, climate and latitude. Hops grow so well at our farm Independence because they are perfectly matched to the terroir. Rainy, cool winters and dry, sunny summers. 15 hours of daylight during the peak growing season because we’re located on the 45th parallel.

Today we grow more than two dozen ingredients at Rogue Farms, creating a unique proprietary palate of flavors exclusively for Rogue Brewmaster John Maier.

Terroir Can Not Be Duplicated

Hop Rows August

Hops cones ripe for picking in late August at Rogue Farms.

Since we began growing our own, scientists have learned that each terroir is unique. If you take a bine from one hopyard, move it just a mile or so and replant it, the flavors, aromas and bitterness in the cones will change. These differences increase over time. Planting a rhizome is the start of a decades long marriage between the hop bine and the soil.

If someone else were to plant our hops and barley, in the same soil where we plant them today, they still wouldn’t be able to produce a Rogue beer or spirit. That’s because the final element of terroir is people. From our farmers, to our maltsters, roasters, smokers and Brewmaster John Maier, each one of us leaves an imprint of quality that’s impossible to duplicate.

Experience the terroir of Rogue for yourself. Pay a visit to Rogue Farms and see how we’re Growing The Revolution.


2 Comments Post a comment
  1. I thoroughly enjoyed the story of Terrior. I am fascinated with the fact that the imprint of the workers from dirt to glass has a profound influence on the product. The pihotos of your
    plants, bees, equipment are just perfection.

    October 21, 2015

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