The 2024 Michigan Chinook Cup has been awarded

Michigan hop farms are recognized for excellence at the 2024 Michigan Great Beer State Conference and Trade Show.

Two men standing together holding a trophy shaped like a hop plant.
Winners of the 2024 Chinook Cup, Mark and Sean Trowbridge of Top Hops Farm. Photo by Life in Michigan.

One of the most prominent winter events in Michigan is the Michigan Great Beer State Conference and Trade Show, held in January each year. This year’s event was held at the Radisson Plaza Hotel in Kalamazoo, Michigan. The conference was presented by the Michigan Brewers Guild, Michigan State University Extension and Master Brewers Association of the Americas (MBAA)-District Michigan. It included presentations from experienced beer industry professionals from across the United States that covered all aspects of the craft beer value chain from raw material supply to brewery operations and more. One aspect of the conference that has generated increasing interest in recent years is the Michigan Chinook Cup competition.

The annual Chinook Cup competition is sponsored by the Hop Growers of Michigan and organized by Rose Stahl of Mr. Wizards Hops with assistance from Bells Brewery and Michigan State University Extension. Modeled after the national Cascade Cup, the Michigan Chinook Cup is awarded to Michigan’s best Chinook hop grower as determined by a panel of expert craft brewers through a series of blind sensory tests.

This year, judges evaluated six Chinook entries with scoring provided for aroma, appearance/color and brewing values. The expert judges included John Mallett; Jeremy Kosmicki and Jason Vrosh from Founders Brewing Company; Alec Mull and Andy Farrell from Bell’s Brewery; Brian Confer and Chris Schneff from Stormcloud Brewing Co.; and Josh Mayich from Island Hop Company. Mull, a general manager at Bell’s Brewery and past president of the Hop Quality Group, awarded the 7th annual Chinook Cup to Top Hops Farm. Second place was awarded to Bonnie Steinman from Bell’s Estate Hopyard and third place was awarded to Hop Head Farms

The 2024 Chinook Cup winners

Several people gather around a table judging hop samples.
Judges evaluate hop samples for the 2024 Michigan Chinook Cup. Photo by Life in Michigan.
A man presenting a trophy to a woman.
Alec Mull of Bell’s Brewery awards the second place trophy to Bonnie Steinman, Bell’s Estate Hopyard. Photo by Life in Michigan.
A man presents a trophy to another man.
Rick Kawalski, Hop Head Farm, accepts the third place trophy from Alec Mull. Photo by Life in Michigan.

Why Michigan Chinook hops?

Although there are over 100 different varieties of hops used by craft brewers across the U.S., the top three hops have consistently been Cascade, Centennial and Chinook. The Chinook hop, released in 1985, is the result of a cross between Petham Golding and a United States Department of Agriculture male plant.

Chinook are a dual-purpose hop used for both bittering and aroma (see figure below). In their quest to brew standout flavorful beers, many craft brewers have become increasingly interested in newer proprietary varieties such as Simcoe and Citra. However, a small but growing number of brewers have begun to recognize that hops of the same variety, when grown in different locations with distinct soils and climate, impart different flavor profiles. In contrast to Chinook grown in the Pacific Northwest that is generally known for its piney, spicy, dank attributes, Michigan Chinook is a cultivar that is increasingly recognized for its citrusy, clean profile.

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Source: The Hop Aroma Compendium. A Flavor Guide. Volume 1.

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