Posts tagged " Yakima "

US Hop Harvest 2016 – What actually happens.

September 6th, 2016 Posted by Hops, News, Uncategorized 1 comment

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.

Van Horn FarmsColumbus

Black Star Farms – Mosaic

C&C FarmsCentennial

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.

Luke in the hopsAfter 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.

Hop Bales On TruckThe 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.


Epic + Hops = First, Best, Most, Only, Greatest and Supreme.

August 30th, 2016 Posted by Hops, News, Uncategorized 1 comment

Luke in the hopsWhen people think about beer from Epic, the first thing that jumps to mind is big hoppy beers. They would be right as we not only brew with massive amounts of hops, but also visit the hop fields and know the hop farmers to get the best hops in the world. Not many brewers in New Zealand do this locally, and none visit the hop farmers on a yearly basis in the US.

Here are some fun facts as to why HOPS = EPIC BEER.

Epic Brewing Company used the MOST AROMA HOPS in the last 10 years, more than any other brewery in New Zealand.

Epic Brewing Company is the LARGEST IMPORTER of US hops to New Zealand over the last 10 years.

Epic Pale Ale was the FIRST American style Pale Ale to be released in New Zealand in 2006.

Epic Pale Ale won SUPREME CHAMPION beer at the 2006 NZ beer Awards on the eve of its official release.

This beer changed the face of craft beer in New Zealand.

Epic Pale Ale is made with US grown Cascade hops, the NUMBER ONE aroma hop in the world.

Best IPA 2016Epic Armageddon IPA is the MOST awarded IPA in New Zealand read this.

Epic Armageddon IPA was the FIRST commercially bottled American style IPA brewed in New Zealand.

Epic Hop Zombie was the FIRST Double IPA released in New Zealand.

The ONLY New Zealand brewer to visit Yakima every year for hop harvest and visit the hop farmers.

When I started out brewing, it was obvious that I was never going to be the BIGGEST, but I could strive to be THE BEST. To be the best, it was logical to use the best ingredients I could find for the best beer you want to make. Sometimes you have to search the whole globe to find the best. Best ale malt from England, best Pilsner malt from Germany, best hops for American IPA’s from Yakima.

Many people have asked me why I don’t use all New Zealand hops and all New Zealand malts. For some people this is hard to hear, but sometimes those New Zealand ingredients aren’t the best for the styles of beer I like to make. Other times they are the best for the flavours I want, but not every time.


I love the aromas and flavours that come from the hops grown in the Yakima valley. I love brewing with these hops, and love the beers that these hops make. This is why I make such an effort each year to fly to the other side of the Pacific Ocean, to find the best of what they have, and bring it back home to New Zealand to brew with.

Guess what? It isn’t just me that gets the joy of drinking the beers I brew with these gloriously aromatic hops. You to can buy these beers. It’s a beautiful thing.

US Hop Harvest 2016 – The Countdown Starts Now

August 24th, 2016 Posted by Hops, News, Uncategorized No Comment yet

It is that time of the year again, and I am finalizing plans and counting down days to my trip to Yakima, USA. I am visiting because it is the time of the year that they harvest the hops.

Yakima is where the majority of hops are grown in the USA. Every year since 2012 I have traveled to Yakima at hop harvest time, to visit hop farms, and meet hop growers, but mostly to have the opportunity (which is the ultimate privilege) to be able to select the hop I want. This will be my fifth consecutive season at hop harvest in Yakima.

luke smelling hopsWhat does hop selection mean? It is that I am presented with several lots of hops (of approximately similar sizes, depending on variety and the quantity I have contract for that variety). I am presented with 6 to 8 different samples from potentially the same number of farms. I take these hops and rub them in my hands to heat up the hop oils and the smell the aromas they produce. I compare them all, making notes, and then rank them, and select my favourite.

Why do I think US grown hops are good? It probably goes back to my formative days of drinking craft beer (early 1990’s). When I first discovered it, and tasted flavours I had never had before in beer. Since that time and that beer(s) was in the US and used US grown hops to flavour it, I have always been drawn to these characters as favourites. Beer is so situational.

I first imported hops from Hopunion in 1997 and have been travelling to the US every year since, sometimes twice a year. Therefore much of my inspiration and influence has come from the West Coast of the USA when it comes to beer styles, beer flavours, hop varieties, and hopping rates.

Luke Hops Are FoodYes, I like hops. You could say I am obsessed with hops. I want to find out as much as I can about hops and the hops I brew with. I want to meet the people that grow the hops I buy. I want to see the plant the my hops come from and where those plants grow. Since these hops are grown in Yakima I need to hop on a plane and travel 7000 miles to get what I want, to make the best beer I can. So far this has seemed to have paid off.