Beer brewers' annual pilgrimage to sniff out the country's best hops

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The craft beer movement in the U.S. has been powered by hops, the flower that give beers like pale ales and IPAs a wide range of flavor. The American craft beer industry produces just over 12 percent of the beer brewed in America but consumes a staggering 40 percent of domestically-grown hops -- most of which come from the Yakima Valley in Washington state.

There the high desert has long days of sunshine, virtually no rain but access to water from the Cascade Mountains, perfect conditions for hops farming. It's also where the country's top brewers go every September not for the sights, but for the scents.

CBS News' Dana Jacobson tagged along with Sierra Nevada founder Ken Grossman and a team of scentologists as they selected some of this year's crop.

"We smelled hops that were harvested Sept. 1, Sept. 4, and Sept. 7. And they were markedly different," Grossman said.

Grossman is a pioneer in the craft beer movement. He said when he first came to Yakima it was pretty much a one hop town, with the crop used mostly for bittering.

"Well, we started focusing on a hop, actually the hop right behind us called cascade, in our pale ale in 1980," he said.

In the decades to follow, craft brewers began to focus on the untapped potential of other hop varieties.

"So there's literally thousands of different varieties of hops. These vines will emerge and they'll go from mid-May to 18 feet tall by July 4," said farmer Eric Desmarais of CLS farms.

Farmers like him have been growing their crops to meet the growing demand.

"We've tripled our size over the last five years," Desmarais said.

CLS isn't the only farm to benefit from the industry's unquenchable thirst for hops.

"Absolutely. The hop industry would have existed for sure in the Yakima Valley, but it's a more vibrant, and healthier industry now, with more players and more farmers," he said.

It's a far cry from the industry this fourth generation hops farmer chose to enter in taking on the family business.

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