One question I was asked recently is what do you do while you are in Yakima during hop harvest?
The short answer is I visit hop farms and meet with the hop growers and select my hops for the year.
This year I am visiting the following hop farms, from which I selected some of my varieties from last year’s harvest.
Black Star Farms – Mosaic
Perrault Farms – to visit the hop breeding plot.
What does a hop farm visit entail?
It is a chance to meet up with the hop farmer and have a walk amongst the bines to see how they are looking, have a chat about how things are going for the current harvest and how the weather and growing season has gone. We’ll discuss what this means for yields and quality of this seasons hops. It is also a chance to ask about what the future holds; What varieties will be planted out next season, what varieties might be reduced.
After a walk through the hops and rubbing and smelling them, I’ll go through the processing plant where you get to see the harvested bines arriving. The bines are hooked up and run through the pickers that strip off all the delicate hop flowers. The flowers are separated from the leaves and stalks and conveyed to the drying room. The drying room receives the hops onto a big bed with a false floor that hot air is pushed up through. After 6-8 hours, the hops are dried then moved on to get baled up. The bales are all checked for temperature and moisture (if bales contain too much moisture, things can get ugly – fire ugly) then the bales are loaded onto trucks.
The truck with hop bales are delivered to YCH Hops. After being checked and stored a brewers cut will be taken from the lot that has arrived from the farm.
After the farm visits there will be an afternoon of hop selection where several lots for each variety are presented. The samples are taken from the bales; The brewers cuts. After ranking and selecting the lot I want, its time for a beer.
Since hop harvest only runs for a few weeks of the year, you can guarantee you will bump into many brewers while you are in the area. It is always fun to have a beer with the other like minded brewers who have travelled to this special spot on the planet to oversee the harvesting of the magical flowers that gift our beery creations with their aromatic essence.
It is a fun time, meeting growers, seeing the hops, bumping into brewing friends, and having a couple pints. I look forward to going each year. Can’t wait to get there again soon.
Here’s some footage from Luke’s previous US hop harvest trips.