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Hop Farming Revival

Posted by Maggie on November 9, 2011

This article by Daniel Fromson in the November 9, 2011 New York Times discusses the revival of hop farming.

Hop Farmers Reviving Heady Days of Brewing


Cazenovia, N.Y.

NEAR the farm that grows the pumpkins for his pumpkin ale and the ranch that raises wagyu beef for the brewpub he owns, David Katleski parked his S.U.V. in the middle of an empty field. “What we’re going to recreate is old hop barns,” he said, surveying a grid of wooden stakes. “Stone hop barns.”

“Are you familiar with the hop barns of Madison County?” his wife, Karen, asked from the back seat.

She was referring not to some steamy romance novel, but to a romantic past: the days when hop barns, those squat, often turretlike structures housing charcoal fires, perfumed the air of central New York with the scent of drying hops. Resinous flowers that give beer its bitterness and flavors of pine, herbs and fruit, hops were a huge part of the local economy in the late 19th century, when New York State grew up to 90 percent of the nation’s supply. But the business withered as beer production became industrialized.

Nearly a century later, the Katleskis and other farmers and craft brewers are trying to revive the region’s hop culture, harnessing the current passion for all things local and artisanal. Just as they and brewers around the country are turning to barley, wheat and other ingredients grown locally, New York beer makers are increasingly using local hops. Some, like the Ithaca Beer Company and Brown’s Brewing Company in Troy, are planning next year to open so-called farm breweries that will raise the crop themselves.

Here in a small organic garden, Mr. Katleski has been growing hops for the Empire Brewing Company, his brewpub in nearby Syracuse, since 2009, and he hopes someday to brew using only local ingredients. The two hop barns he plans to build in the spring will be largely decorative, forming the facade of his Empire Farmstead Brewery, a 20,000-square-foot production and canning center flanked by hop trellises and vegetable gardens — a sort of hop chateau.

Wine terminology is not out of place. Dozens of hop varieties, some scarce and highly sought after, are used in brewing around the world, and connoisseurs say they lend flavors and aromas to beer that are as distinctive and varied as those that grapes and soils give to wine. Mr. Katleski, president of the New York State Brewers Association, said that although New York brewers sometimes use local examples of hop varieties grown in, say, the Pacific Northwest, their beers taste vastly different.

“What I’m getting is a very fruit-forward or grapefruit-forward flavor from the hop, and less bitterness,” he said. “It kind of just comes from the natural terroir.”

So does much of the inspiration for a hop renaissance: Near several breweries lie the vineyards of the Finger Lakes, which have not only won an international reputation but also spawned a side business in tourism.

“We’re trying to create a beer culture in the area, much like you have a wine culture,” said Jeremiah Sprague, a home brewer and full-time vineyard employee who recently helped oversee the first major harvest at Climbing Bines Hop Farm in Penn Yan, which overlooks Seneca Lake. With his high-school friends Chris Hansen and Brian Karweck, Mr. Sprague is transforming the site into a farm brewery where hops will be grown and dried.

“The coolest thing we’re going to have,” he said, “is the ability to offer some estate-hopped ales,” the fruits of the roughly 1,500 hop plants the farm has already cultivated.

A principal goal of the revival effort is agritourism that demonstrates where the ingredients come from. Visitors to Climbing Bines will see that hop vines resemble bushy green telephone poles, and will taste the wide differences among varieties, from grapefruity Cascade to earthy Fuggles to intensely bitter Nugget. Education is even built into the farm’s name: Hop plants are not vines that climb with help from tendrils or suckers, but bines — stems that wrap in spirals around their supports.

Homegrown beers are not unique to New York. The Sierra Nevada Brewing Company in California and Rogue Ales in Oregon have become known for “estate beers” containing their own hops and barley, a niche pioneered in the 1990s when several California wineries started breweries. Farm breweries have sprung up recently in the East, from New England to North Carolina.

But an unusual concentration of hop farms is emerging in New York, fueled by local history and embodied in a pastoral symbol: the hop barn, where farmers dried, stored and baled their crop for shipping as far away as England.

In 1889, The New York Sun reported a “mania” for hop farming: “A prominent hop-grower describes it as being simply the spirit of Wall Street carried afield.” The industry was destroyed by aphids and mildew, competition from the Pacific Northwest and Prohibition.

Becca Jablonski, a former agricultural specialist with the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Madison County, said the New York hop revival began in 2000 when enthusiasts gathered to preserve the few remaining barns. Several growers formed the Northeast Hop Alliance, which had at most 10 members until last year, when its first big hop-farming workshop increased the ranks tenfold.

Steve Miller, whom the cooperative extension installed in May as New York’s first hop horticulture specialist, predicted that statewide acreage devoted to hops would more than double next year, to over 100 acres.

Many brewers are excited by the past they are restoring. Randy Lacey is building a classic pitched-roof hop barn near Ithaca to house his Hopshire Farm and Brewery, where he will use waste heat and a wood-fired boiler to dry his hops as traditionally as possible.

Mr. Katleski, meanwhile, has been working with State Senator David J. Valesky and Assemblyman William D. Magee to promote a bill, modeled on a 1976 law that jump-started the state’s wine industry, that would create a special license for farm breweries that use a designated percentage of New York-grown ingredients. The bill, which would reduce licensing costs and logistical barriers to tourism, has encountered no opposition, Mr. Valesky said.

Even if the legislation passes, the state’s farm brewing movement will be slow to develop. Hop plants take three years to reach maturity, and harvesting and processing equipment is scarce.

Still, the growers who have dabbled in hops, harvesting mostly by hand, say technology suited to their small farms is becoming more available.

Ultimately, what they are betting on is the sense of place that their products will convey, a selling point that is nowhere more evident than on the western shore of Seneca Lake. Sandwiched between vineyards, Climbing Bines Hop Farm slopes toward the water; a hop trellis fashioned from 150 black locust tree trunks stands postcard-ready.

“We’ll utilize what, specifically, this part of the world has to offer,” Mr. Karweck said. “Because we’ve traveled, and we’ve done some things, and we choose to call this place home.”

A Beer Sampler

Not sure how hops smell or taste? Here are a few widely available brews that hint at the many possibilities.

Samuel Adams Boston Lager The best-known American craft beer made with “noble hops,” central European varieties with floral, spicy aromas and minimal bitterness.

Bass Pale Ale A good example of the muted earthy, woody flavors and aromas associated with English hops.

Pilsner Urquell The spiciness of the Saaz hop, a noble Czech variety, complements the crisp, clean taste of this archetypal pilsner.

Sierra Nevada Pale Ale The beer that popularized Cascade hops, whose piney, citrusy profile, which is typical of many American hop varieties, has made it a mainstay of domestic pale ales.

Stone India Pale Ale In West Coast IPA’s like this one, American hops add intense herbal and citrus fruit flavors and a pronounced bitterness.

Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA A more restrained IPA typical of East Coast versions of the style, in which citrusy American hops are balanced by large doses of malt. 


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Yes, the Organic Beer Market is Growing

Posted by Maggie on May 24, 2011

This article from TriplePundit has some great facts about the organic brewing market.

The Brewing Organic Beer Market

By Presidio Economics | May 17th, 2011

This post is part of a blogging series by economics students at the Presidio Graduate School’s MBA program.

By: Michael Schimaneck America’s craft beer market has grown rapidly in recent years, seemingly outpaced only by its niche organic segment, thanks in part to growing consumer fears about genetically modified foods. While a few of the largest regional breweries currently enjoy widespread distribution, craft brewing remains fundamentally an industry devoted to its local followers, and the results are undeniable.

After growing 7.2% in 2009, the craft brewing industry expanded by 11% in 2010, bringing its share of the U.S. beer market to 4.9%. However, given craft brewers’ generally higher price points than those of macro brewers like Anheuser-Busch Inbev and MillerCoors, this accounted for 7.6% of all sales in dollars. This reflects a growth in retail value of $600 million over the previous year, despite a 1% drop in volume of the entire industry. The number of breweries in the U.S. jumped concurrently to 1,759, the highest such total since the late 1800s. Of these, 1,716 were identified as craft brewers by the Brewers Association.

This dramatic increase in craft beer sales during the recession indicates that consumers’ tastes are evolving so much that they have become willing to accept the higher costs of a premium good like craft beer over cheaper, macro-brewed substitutes, even when their wallets are pinched, leading some analysts to project that craft beer’s share of the domestic market could even climb from 5% to 20% over the next ten years.

While organic beer still makes up only a fraction of the craft beer market, it is gaining ground very quickly. Between 2003 and 2009, U.S. organic beer sales spiked from $9 million to $41 million.  However, with the correspondingly low supply of organic ingredients currently available on the market, organic brewers are subject to higher costs for their inputs than ordinary craft brewers. Suppliers are aware that organic brewers are willing to absorb these higher costs in order to make their beer organic, but these costs are subject to a low ceiling because organic brewers generally refuse to offset their variable costs with higher price points. Instead, they sell their products at prices comparable to the craft beer industry average. While these practices serve to minimize organic brewers’ bottom lines, it simultaneously limits suppliers’ ability to further manipulate prices.

In accordance with the industry’s reputation for innovation, many craft brewers have discovered unique ways to overcome these hurdles. For instance, Bison Brewing Company, a contract brewer located in Berkeley, California, sources all of its ingredients from the American northwest. As their business has grown, they have enacted vertical impacts on their supply chain by driving the conversion from conventional to organic farming practices in that region. Additionally, companies like Sierra Nevada have begun brewing small batches of organic beer using ingredients exclusively grown on their properties.

Because organic farmlands require 50% less energy to maintain than conventional farms, it is likely that if demand for organic beers continues to increase at a similar rate, or even one comparable to the craft beer industry as a whole, then organic brewers will soon benefit from increased profit margins as their average variable costs decline.

Posted in Beer Ingredients, Organic Beer, Sustainable Brewing | 1 Comment »

Apricot Ale

Posted by Maggie on May 14, 2011

I now that fruity beer isn’t for everyone, but I have always loved Pyramid’s Apricot Ale.  For Christmas I got some Brewcraft apricot natural fruit flavor so I tried it in this batch.  OMG, it is YUM!  So easy too.  Perfect for summer (although it is cold and rainy now.   Brrr.)  The color is really nice too.

I haven’t tried this yeast before.  It is hard to tell how it affected the flavor since I added the apricot.  It certainly fermented nicely and left no strange flavors.  This recipe is for a three gallon batch.

  • 1 lb. Belgian Pilsner malt
  • 3 lbs. light malt extract
  • .75 oz. Fuggle at 60 minutes and .25 oz. at 5 minutes.
  • WYeast 1056 American Ale
  • 3 oz. Apricot Brewcraft Natural Fruit Flavor added before bottling (right in the bottling bucket)
  • 2/3 cup priming sugar

Due to both fear of contamination and pure laziness, I stopped measuring the alcohol level in my beer (and yes I have gotten grief about this.)  I would say that this particular beer is stronger than my normal brews.   Maybe I should use a bit less DME next time to get a lighter beer.  I can’t drink more than one of these.  But I want to.

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Organic Ingredients

Posted by Maggie on September 3, 2010

I was just in my local brewing supply store, the Oak Barrel in Berkeley.  The owner had told me that they would be getting organic ingredients.  They still don’t have anything organic.  I spoke to the owner about it again and had to convince him to try selling some organic malt extracts and specialty malts.  I told him that organic brewing is the way of the future and that no other stores in the area sell organic ingredients.  I hope that he will give some organic ingredients a try.  It would be very convenient for me.  I love that store but I want to make organic brews.

On another note, I just found out that some good friends, Geoff and Margaret, are growing cascade hops!  They are not brewers themselves.  They are more interested in gardening.  They said they will give me some hops.  This will be a nice change from the vacuum sealed hop pellets I have been using and they will be organic.

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Going Organic

Posted by Maggie on May 28, 2010

While I tend to buy most of my food organic, I have been brewing non-organic beer.   Really, the only reason for this is that my local brew store, Oak Barrel Wine Craft, doesn’t carry organic ingredients.  I love the store.  It’s old and wood and funky and a walk from my house.  The sales-people are informed.   It’s a great place and it is so much nicer to go into a store and pick out the ingredients you want than to order from a store.

But I just decided that I care too much about consuming organic products and supporting organic agriculture, so I ordered a bunch of ingredients from Seven Bridges Cooperative in Santa Cruz (see the links on the right side of the page).  I would rather buy in person, but there it is.  Maybe I can get the Oak Barrel to start carrying organic ingredients.

Update:  They are going to start carrying organic specialty malts and DME and hops at the Oak Barrel, my local store!

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Hop Guide from the BeerAdvocate

Posted by Maggie on May 17, 2010

This is a really useful hop guide from the Beer Advocate.  These hops are the variety generally available in pellet form at most brewing supply stores.

The URL for this is:

Hop Guide

Humulus Lupulus (hops) are the flowering cone of a perennial vining plant and a cousin of the cannabis variety (sorry no THC in this stuff) that typically thrives in climates similar to the ones that grapes do. Hop plants are dioecious, meaning the males and females flower on separate plants — and the female cones are used in the brewing process. Hops are the age old seasoning of the beer, the liquid gargoyles who ward-off spoilage from wild bacteria and bringers of balance to sweet malts. They also lend a hand in head retention, help to clear beer (acting as a natural filter) and please the palate by imparting their unique characters and flavours. Basically, hops put the “bitter” in beer.

The following is a growing list of different hop varieties.

Type Description
Ahtanum Ahtanum is an aroma-type cultivar bred by Yakima Chief Ranches. Its name is derived from the area near Yakima where the first hop farm was established in 1869 by Charles Carpenter. (alpha acid: 5.7-6.3% / beta acid: 5.0-6.5%)
Amarillo Amarillo is an aroma-type cultivar of recent origin, discovered and introduced by Virgil Gamache Farms Inc. (alpha acid: 8-11% / beta acid: 6-7% )
Cascade Cascade is an aroma-type cultivar which originated as the first commercial hop from the USDA-ARS breeding program. It was bred in 1956 but not released for cultivation until 1972. It reached its peak in 1975 when it produced 13.3% of the total American crop. It was obtained by crossing an English Fuggle with a male plant, which originated from the Russian variety Serebrianka with a Fuggle male plant.

A very popular U.S. variety, with a moderate bitterness level and fragrant, flowery aroma. Cascade is often used in highly hopped West Coast ales that have a citrus-floral hop character. (alpha acid: 4.5-6.0% / beta acid: 5.0-7.0% )

Centennial Centennial is an aroma-type cultivar, bred in 1974 and released in 1990. The genetic composition is 3/4 Brewers Gold, 3/32 Fuggle, 1/16 East Kent Golding, 1/32 Bavarian and 1/16 unknown.

A relatively new hop on the market, this hop used to be called CFJ90. Described by some as a “Super Cascade” and we tend to agree, but it’s not nearly as “citrusy”. Some even use it for aroma as well as bittering. Bitterness is quite clean and can have floral notes depending on the boil time. (alpha acid: 9.5-11.5% / beta acid: 4.0-5.0%)

Chinook Chinook is a bittering variety with aroma characteristics released in May, 1985. It was bred by crossing a Petham Golding with the USDA 63012 male.

A high alpha acid hop with a wonderful herbal, almost smoky character when used as an aromatic during the last few minutes of the boil when dry hoping. Excellent for hopping American-style Pale Ales, especially those brewed to higher gravities. (alpha acid: 12.0-14.0% / beta acid: 3.0-4.0%)

Columbus This high alpha variety has a pungent aroma and clean bittering. Excellent for bitter ales and American IPA styles, and can be dramatic when dry hopped. (average alpha acid: 12%)
Cluster Cluster originated from mass selection of the Cluster hop, which is an old American cultivar. It is suggested that they arose from hybridization of varieties, imported by Dutch and English settlers and indigenous male hops. (alpha acid: 5.5-8.5% / beta acid: 4.5-5.5%)
Crystal Crystal is a triploid aroma-type cultivar, released for commercial production in 1993. It originates from a seedling selection (No. 8309-37) made at Corvallis in 1983 between the colchicine – induced tetraploid ‘Hallertau mf’ (USDA 21397) and the diploid male downy mildew resistant aroma hop, USDA 21381M. Crystal is a half-sister of Mt. Hood and Liberty. (alpha acid: 4.0-6.0% / beta acid: 5.0-6.7%)
Fuggle Fuggle is an aroma-type cultivar selected in England as a chance seedling in 1861. It reached its peak in the U.K. in 1949 when 78% of the English crops were grown as Fuggle. It is also marketed as Styrian (Savinja) Golding in the Slovenian Republic. In the USA it is grown in Oregon and Washington State.

Superb in English-style ales, and lends a unique character not imparted by the more subtle American-grown Fuggles. (alpha acid: 3.8-5.5% / beta acid: 1.5-2.0%)

Galena Galena is a bittering-type cultivar which was bred in 1968 from Brewers Gold and an open pollination, i.e. an unknown male plant. It was released for cultivation in 1978.

Galena is the most “mellow” hop of the high-alpha varieties, and has replaced Cluster as the most widely grown US hop. The bitterness is clean and well balanced. Great general purpose bittering hop. (alpha acid: 12.5-14.0% / beta acid: 7.5-9.0%)

Golding Golding is a group of aroma-type cultivars originating in England. Over the decades, the group has been changed and widened. Mostly they have been named after villages in East Kent, (Petham, Rothersham, Canterbury, Eastwell) or hop farmers, who grew them (Amos’s Early Bird, Cobbs).

English Goldings grown in East Kent, are a premium hop, called East Kent Golding and should not be confused with U.K. Goldings, which are grown in other parts such as Kent, Worcestershire, Hampshire and Herefordshire. The cultivar grown in the USA (Oregon and Washington State) is a Canterbury Golding.

The premier English aroma hop. Superb in English-style ales, and lend a unique character to fine lagers as well. This hop has a unique spicy aroma and refined flavor. (alpha acid: 4.0-6.0% / beta acid: 2.0-3.0%)

Hallertau mf Hallertau mf (Mittelfrueh) is an aroma-type cultivar which originated in Germany as a land – race hop. The original Hallertau mf in Germany has been replaced with other Hallertau types with similar quality characteristics. The name indicates that it is a middle to early ripening cultivar.

If you are looking to brew an authentic European-style lager, this is the best choice. Mild spicy flavor and aroma. (alpha acid: 3.5-5.5% / beta acid: 3.5-5.5%)

Horizon Horizon is a high alpha-aroma cultivar, a diploid seedling result of a cross made in 1970 between the USDA 65009 female plant (with Brewers Gold and Early Green lineage) and the male plant 64035M. It was released as a commercial variety in 1998. (alpha acid: 10.2-16.5% / beta acid: 6.5-8.5%)
Liberty Liberty is a triploid aroma-type cultivar, the result in 1983 of the colchicine induced tetrapcoid female cultivar Hallertau mf and a downy mildew resistant male, USDA 64035M. It is a half-sister to Ultra, Mt. Hood and Crystal. (alpha acid: 3.5-4.5% / beta acid: 3.0-3.5%)
Magnum Magnum is a bittering/aroma type cultivar, bred in 1980 at Huell, the German Hop Research Instititute, from the American variety Galena and the German male 75/5/3. (alpha acid: 10.0-12.6% / beta acid: 5.0-7.0%)
Mount Hood Mt. Hood is a triploid aroma-type cultivar, the 1983 result of a cross between the colchicine – induced tetraploid female Hallertau mf (USDA 21397) and the USDA 19058M, male plant. It is a half-sister to Ultra, Liberty and Crystal.

An aromatic variety derived from Hallertau with a refined, spicy aroma and clean bittering. A good choice for lagers. (alpha acid: 4.0-6.0% / beta acid: 5.0-7.5%)

Northern Brewer Northern Brewer is a bittering-type cultivar, bred in 1934 in England from a Canterbury Golding female plant and the male plant OB21. Northern Brewer has been used in the breeding process of many newer varieties. This cultivar is grown in England, Belgium, Germany and the USA.

A strong fragrant hop with a rich rough-hewn flavor and aroma, ideal for steam-style beers and ales. Northern Brewer has a unique mint-like evergreen flavor. (alpha acid: 8.0-10.0%/ beta acid: 3.0-5.0%)

Nugget Nugget is a bittering-type cultivar, bred in 1970 from the USDA 65009 female plant and USDA 63015M. The lineage of Nugget is 5/8 Brewers Gold, 1/8 Early Green, 1/16 Canterbury Golding, 1/32 Bavarian and 5/32 unknown.

Nugget is a great bittering hop with a heavy herbal aroma. (alpha acid: 12.5-14.5% / beta acid: 4.0-6.0%)

Perle Perle is an aroma-type cultivar, bred in 1978 in Germany from Northern Brewer. It is grown in Germany, Belgium and the U. S. A.

Perle is a newer variety, originally from Germany but now grown quite successfully in the US. Perle is a medium alpha hop with a very clean, almost minty bitterness and pleasant aroma. (alpha acid: 7.0-9.5% / beta acid: 4.0-5.0%)

Saaz Saaz is the traditional noble hop for true pilsner beer. Saaz is famous for its spicy, clean bitterness. (average alpha acid: 3.0%)
Satus Satus is a bittering-type cultivar of recent origin. (alpha acid: 12.5-14.0% / beta acid: 8.5-9.0%)
Simcoe Simcoe is a bittering/aroma type cultivar bred by Yakima Chief Ranches. (alpha acid: 12.0-14.0% / beta acid: 4.0-5.0%)
Spalt Select Spalt Select is an aroma – type cultivar, bred in Germany and released for cultivation in the late 1980’s. It is grown in Germany in the Hallertau and Spalt areas and in the U.S.A. in Washington State. (alpha acid: 3.5-5.5% / beta acid: 3.0-4.5%)
Sterling Sterling is an aroma cultivar, a diploid seedling made in 1990 with a 21522 female plant and a 21361 male plant. Its parentage is 1/2 Saazer, 1/4 Cascade, 1/8 64035M (unknown German aroma X open pollination),1/16 Brewers Gold, 1/32 Early Green, and 1/32 unknown. (alpha acid: 4.5-5.0% / beta acid: 5.0-6.0%)
Tettnang Tettnang is an aroma-type cultivar which originated in the Tettnang hop growing area of Germany as a land-race hop. It is grown in the U.S.A. in Oregon and Washington State.

The original noble hop from the Tettnang region of Germany, ideal for your finest lagers and wheat beers. This limited availability hop has a fine, pure aroma, that is not present in United States grown Tettnanger. (alpha acid: 4.0-5.0% / beta acid: 3.5-4.5%)

Tomahawk Tomahawk is a bittering hop of recent origin, bred by Charles Zimmermann. It is the first commercially grown ‘Super Alpha’ variety. In 1998 it contributed to 11% of the USA hop crop. (alpha acid: 14.0-18.0% / beta acid: 4.5-5.8%)
Ultra Ultra is a triploid aroma-type cultivar, originated in 1983 from a cross between the colchicine-induced tetraploid Hallertau mf (USDA 21397) and the diploid Saazer-derived male genotype (USDA 21237m). Ultra is the half-sister to Mt. Hood, Liberty and Crystal. Its genetic composition is 4/6 Hallertau mf, 1/6 Saazer, and 1/6 unknown. This cultivar was released for commercial production in March, 1995. (alpha acid: 4.5-5.0% / beta acid: 3.6-4.7%)
US Fuggle A mild-flavored English-style hop grown in Oregon, with a fragrant wood-like aroma. Milder in character than English Fuggles. This hop imparts a smooth, well rounded hop character. (average alpha acid: 3.9%)
Vanguard Vanguard is a diploid seedling made in 1982 between USDA 21285, which has Hallertau mf parentage and USDA 64037m. It was released for cultivation in 1997. (alpha acid: 5.0-6.0% / beta acid: 5.0-7.0%)
Warrior Warrior is a bittering hop of a recent origin, bred by Yakima Chief Ranches. (alpha acid: 15.0-17.0% / beta acid: 4.5-5.5%)
Willamette Willamette is a triploid aroma-type hop, which originated in the mid 1970’s and is a seedling of Fuggle. It is a very popular aroma hop, contributing in 1998 to 18% of the total USA hop crop.

A variation on English Fuggle hops grown in Oregon and Washington. Willamette has a fragrant spicy woody aroma. An excellent American aromatic hops for ales and lagers. (alpha acid: 4.0-6.0% / beta acid: 3.5-4.5%)

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