The immeasurable impact of solid sensory science at HAAS®.

One of the most rigorous, highly intentional, and important parts of HAAS’s hop business is one that most of the brewing world probably never gets to see. In fact, the launch of new hop varieties, new hop products, as well as countless beer collaborations—and every lot selection we make—all depend, in part, on the rigor, standards, and incredible commitment of the HAAS Sensory Team (which is now part of the larger HAAS Brewing Solutions Team).

So, we thought it was time you got to see a little bit about the big role they play in our organization, and understand all the ways you can engage with them.

“Every year we run more than 200 sensory panels at the HAAS Innovations Center here in Yakima,” said Jeff Dailey, Sensory Manager at John I. Haas. “That’s thousands of beers—to support everything from our hop breeding activities and new product development to QA and customer support.”

“I think what really sets it apart though, is the rigor we bring to the process,” added Rikki Welz, Assistant Sensory Scientist. “We want our sensory evaluations to be highly accurate and reliable, and we go to great lengths to ensure that.”

The HAAS Sensory Program is part of a multi-decade investment in R&D, hop breeding, sensory, and brewing solutions. Each year, Jeff, Rikki, and Assistant Sensory Scientist ​​Amanda Hoisington recruit 35–50 HAAS volunteers to join the sensory team.

“The sensory panelists come from across HAAS, from research, sales, admin, manufacturing, you name it,” said Rikki. “They’re people who love hops or just want to be closer to the process. It’s also just cool training to go through, kind of like becoming a sommelier.”

“It’s a big group. We want to ensure we’re getting statistically significant results, so we like for a lot of people to participate,” said Jeff. That participation entails a year-long commitment and rigorous training three times per week for 8 weeks. All designed to help panelists deeply understand the HAAS sensory lexicon, and to evaluate hops, hop aroma, and hop flavors within that lexicon.

Jeff continued, “This training and perspective helps us identify and characterize new and existing hop flavors, and variations within them. Our panelists learn to describe how those flavors and aroma present in beer, and how hops translate to new products across different beverage formats.

“The level of training and engagement is intense, for sure,” said Rikki. “But we want to be absolutely sure that brewers and our product development teams can rely on the data we provide.”

The Sensory Team’s work impacts, and gets leveraged, across the organization. But three areas in particular are worth highlighting: hop breeding, new product development, and customer support.

“A lot of our time is spent profiling experimental hop varieties,” said Jeff. “It’s a monumental effort by our Brewing Team to produce single-hop beers for the panel. This year, there were about 115 crosses submitted by our hop breeder, Dr. Michael Ferguson, for sensory analysis.” Those sensory results, including the overall profile and consumer acceptance, are then paired with Michael’s agronomic data, and these two data sets are what we use to collectively decide whether or not a variety is commercially viable.” 

Jeff continued. “We’ve been doing this exact process for over a decade, and this is just one step out of the ten-year process involved in developing new varieties like Citra®, Mosaic®, Sabro® and more.”

“The new product development process is a big part of what we do as well,” Rikki added. “We’re doing sensory analysis to see how products match to their raw hop counterparts, we do shelf-life studies, we help with innovative new applications—like HopKick® last year—and a new product line we’re just about to launch.”

Finally, there’s customer support. “Collaborative development is a big part of the HAAS culture,” said Jeff. “We’re helping customers with recipe design, evaluating new product applications…it really runs the gamut. We try to be an extension of any given brewery’s internal team—to bring our expertise to their brand development efforts and to ensure they’re getting the results from us that they expect.”

It’s a big responsibility. And a big job. In 2023, the HAAS Sensory Team evaluated 1,000+ individual lots of hops during hop harvest. They held 35 training sessions. They held hundreds of sensory panels in Yakima, and they helped train customers at conferences and events, and on the road.

Meanwhile, they somehow find time to put together 1,1152 aroma-specific training jars to help panelists expand their sensory understanding of the wide variety of flavors that express themselves in hops.

“In hops, pineapple is considered a sweet fruit. But stone fruits like peaches are also a sweet fruit. So how can you describe the sweet fruit category clearly? How do each of these individual fruits tie together?” Jeff explained. “So we give panelists the tools and training to successfully identify those nuances, those differences, to do it all in context of a complex beer, or rub and sniff, or what have you, and to make sure we’re all doing it consistently.”

Want to learn more or take advantage of the HAAS Sensory Teams expertise? Email us a and let’s talk.



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John I. Haas, Inc.
1600 River Road
Yakima, WA 98902


John I. Haas, Inc.
5185 MacArthur Blvd. N.W. Suite 300
Washington, DC 20016
+ 1-202-777-4800