Video by Rutgers Today

There's a lot of science that goes into making a tasty beer. But not all brewers and hop farmers — especially the small ones — have access to the tools and information they need to arrive at the perfect product.

That's where Rutgers University comes in. A two-year study, funded by a federal grant, has a goal of determining the best way and time, in New Jersey conditions, to harvest and process hops, a prominent ingredient that contributes to the bitterness, aroma, flavor and even the texture of a brew.

"What we really wanted to do was try to respond to what breweries and growers were asking of Rutgers," said Jim Simon, principal investigator of the project. "They were asking: how do we position ourselves to level the playing field, to try to get the same type of information that some of the big breweries have?"

Simon oversees doctoral candidates Megan Muehlbauer and Robert Pyne who handle samples from outside brewers, along with a specially-created hops plot on a farm in Pittstown that's growing seven varieties to compare results.

Chris Ratcliffe, Getty Images

Samples are processed through the university's advanced equipment to determine acidity level and aromatic volatiles, Simon said.

"We're trying to provide answers to growers and we're trying to give answers to those that are brewing beer, to support them in their efforts to establish a profitable and a successful brewery industry here in New Jersey," Simon said.

According to Simon, interest in such a topic can be attributed to the booming craft beer industry in New Jersey and elsewhere. The mid-Atlantic region, including the Garden State, was a prominent producer of hops a century ago, but the northwest region of the country handles about 90 percent of the hops market today.

Simon's team currently processes samples for free, with a rapid turnaround for brewers, but the service could continue for a fee when the school's grant runs out.

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