PORTLAND &

Scientists and master brewers from 13 countries will descend on Oregon State University this week. And they're thirsty &

for knowledge.




Oregon is the second-largest hops producer in the country and has one of two fermentation science programs in the nation. So it's little surprise the first international brewers' symposium to focus on the crucial role hops plays in beer-making would be held here.




"It's kind of like the Lollapalooza of every chemist, scientist and brewer," said Tom Shellhammer, an associate professor of brewing and food engineering at Oregon State.




The conference begins Thursday and will focus on how the flavor, stability and bitterness of hops varieties influence the taste of beers. Attendees range from local breweries like Bridgeport to major market leaders like Anheuser-Busch.




But at the heart of it all is hops.




Hops are a crucial part of making beer. And Oregon State helped create a number of strains used in some of today's most popular beers, like the Willamette, one of the main hops used in Anheuser-Busch beers.




Hops is experiencing a resurgence in brewing. Like fashion, beer goes through its own trends, and some brewers are experimenting with robust, hop-heavy beers.




For example, some smaller breweries are making double-hop IPAs, Shellhammer pointed out. A typical American beer like Budweiser might have 8 bitterness units. An India Pale Ale with double hops could have as many as 75 units.




"We love hops. We live for hops here," said Larry Sidor, president of the Master Brewers Association of the Americas and brewmaster at Deschutes Brewery.




Sidor said he doesn't think there is a brewing country in the world that doesn't use some form of American hops, which makes it crucial to stay on top of the latest developments.




The hop harvest is only a month away. And the Northwest produces about 30 percent of the world's hops. Washington far outpaces Oregon with the prime growing areas in the Yakima Valley, according to the Oregon Hop Commission, but Oregon's Willamette Valley comes in second.