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Q&A with Blake Crosby


Blake Crosby, CEO of Crosby Hop Farm shares with Beyond the Box what to expect at this year’s Craft Brewers Conference.

Will you be at the Craft Brewers Conference (CBC) April 30 to May 3 in Nashville?

BC: Absolutely. We’ll have our booth at the trade show, but we’re excited to do something else fun with fellow Oregon hop company Indie Hops. We’ve got a co-hosted lounge decked out with dozens of hop samples and 22 beers pouring over three days. Many beers are one-offs, brewed with Crosby and Indie hops just for this event by amazing brewers from around the country. The only one available at the lounge all three days is pFriem Family Brewers’ Oregon-Grown IPA. It’s the perfect definition of a collaboration, featuring Strata® from Indie Hops and our estate grown Amarillo®.

What can people expect from Strata®?

BC: Its characteristics are still very unknown, but a lot of bigger, astute brewers have it now and are really excited. Strata® was developed at Oregon State University in partnership with a breeding program that Indie Hops helped fund; we’re planting some this spring and will bring it to market in 2019. Strata® has elements of new-wave hops with citrus and tropical aromas paired with a hint of cannabis-like character for complexity — it’s an awesome flavor. We’ll be pouring plenty of beers with Strata® in them, including Strata IPA from Worthy Brewing (Bend, Oregon), owned by Indie Hops co-owner Roger Worthington.

What other beers should we look out for at Crosby’s CBC lounge?

BC: It’d be easy for us to offer only IPAs but we’ve got things like table beers, pilsners, and session beers to round out the beer menu. There will also be a nice mix of new-wave hops and classic varieties, like Crystal and Centennial, used in new ways. Georgetown Brewing (Seattle, Washington) has a 100% Crosby-grown Sterling beer. Faction Brewing (Alameda, Calif.) is doing Crosby Stills and Hash using Amarillo®, Cascade, and Centennial Hop Hash, no pellets at all. Breakside Brewery has Chinook Revival, a big Chinook bomb in a hazy format, so it’s not what you’d expect from that hop. It’s softer, less bitter, more flavor-forward, less of the extreme pine, which blends nicely with a citrusy tropical background.

What else are you excited to show off this year?

BC: We’ve got new varieties to us like Comet and Meridian®, and we’ll be debuting a selection of New Zealand hops. We forged a distribution arrangement with Freestyle Hops, a team that hails from the U.S. A few weeks ago I saw the farm first-hand while we worked out the details of the volumes from this harvest. This is the first year we’re importing bales from them, pelletizing the hops at Crosby Hop Farm, and distributing them to U.S. craft brewers. We’re excited to have samples of fresh whole leaf New Zealand hops at CBC.

What do you see as the value of CBC for Crosby?

BC: We’ve been exhibiting since 2012, and continue to grow our presence a little every year. It feels like we’ve built our business on this show.

When we were starting with direct sales to craft brewers, we were doing a lot from our home office, not traveling much, and had a small team. As we’ve grown and have reps around the country, it’s turned into a great team-building event. This event serves that purpose and then some. Being such a relationship-driven company, CBC feels like homecoming week to us, with customers and friends gathering in one place from all over the world.

In the past, we’ve had some cool CBC evening events involving music, comedy, beer, and great people. This year we decided to showcase the story of Oregon hops and pour beer brewed with those hops including some new varieties coming out of our region.

Going to CBC and having so many potential customers in one spot continues to be hugely valuable. It’s exciting to hear the ever-changing needs of craft brewers and talk about how we can meet those needs. We do a ton of networking and it’s a great platform to show our wares to such a broad group. It’s a worthwhile investment.