I remember when I first heard of this new virus…COVID-19?  It seemed like it was so distant, and like Ebola, SARS, the Avian flu and so many others…it was going to be much about nothing. 

I couldn’t have been more wrong.  It changed our life and everyone else around the world. 

By mid-March 2020, we were all locked down.  Are you an “essential” business?  You can stay open.  You’re not?  Work from home, if you can.  Boy was that confusing! 

Craft breweries suffered tremendously.  The two primary distribution channels for most small Craft breweries were either taproom distribution or cans/bottles.  If you were in the taproom-only camp, you were screwed.  This pandemic had winners and losers, and they were primarily separated by your distribution channel. 

Craft quickly reacted…partially out of desperation.  By April, the Brewers Association was predicting that as many as 85% of all U.S. Craft breweries could be shuttered permanently if this pandemic wasn’t over in a few months. 

Fortunately, the PPP program was launched here, and it was a lifeline to many.  An estimated 80%+ of Craft breweries in the U.S. were able to take advantage of it, and it was largely credited with keeping a massive volume of the Craft breweries afloat.   

You also saw rapid pivoting in the business model.  I’d never heard of “pivot” used so much in any industry outside of irrigation.  You don’t package in cans or bottles?  Find a mobile canner, quickly.  Don’t do growlers?  Rally your legislators and get drive-up growler sales or home delivery approved in your state.   

However, the pandemic interrupted much innovation, particularly with new hop varieties, specifically Triumph, which was launched in 2019…months before the pandemic hit.  The industry focus was on survival, not innovation, and the results showed.  The industry survived.   

But innovation with new hop varieties?  Innovation in many facets of brewing suffered as R&D budgets were slashed and production centered around tried-and-true. 

Well, it’s time to get back to innovating. 

I’d like to suggest you start with evaluating Triumph, that new Public variety that was launched in 2019.  Its noble genetics are definitely present, making it the perfect lager hop, but Triumph has also found a home in fruit-forward ales and IPAs, due to its bright aromas of orange, lime, and peach, yes, Peach.   

Intended as a higher-alpha (approx. 9-12%) aroma variety with high myrcene and humulene and low cohumulone, Triumph adds secondary notes of spice and pine to its sensory profile. 

It’s true that Triumph slipped through the cracks of hop innovation due to the pandemic, through no fault of its own.  But now that the world is emerging from the pandemic, you should consider adding this new variety back into your brewing spice rack. 

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