It’s fresh hop time! If you didn’t know, fresh hops are harvested from the bine (A bine is a climbing plant that climbs by its shoots growing in a helix around a support, in contrast to vines, which climb using tendrils or suckers), only once a year, just like grape vines for wine. So…fresh hop beers are made during the season change from summer to fall. The rest of the year, hops are baled whole, or turned into pellets and stored cold, year round. For our brewers, traveling over to the Oregon or Washington valley for the fresh hop harvest is like a kid in a candy store, or more appropriately, a trip to Disneyland!
I was lucky enough to take the fresh hop journey at Goschie Farms, one of our partner hop farms, and as a brewery employee, it was one of the best days of my life, seriously!
The journey begins on a day in late August or beginning September in the wee hours of the morning. At around 3am, a few of us made the drive from Bend to the Salem area where we arrived and met up with owner, Gayle Goschie. She gave us a tour of the hop landscape, showing us the mega tall bines that rise up to about 12 ft. Each plot of space offered a different variety of hop. For this trip, we were focused on bringing back Crystal hops for Hop Trip Pale Ale. What I remember most is the SMELL! The hop smell is bight and refreshing, and oh, so citrusy! #allthesmells
To harvest, hop farmers drive special trucks down the long lanes of bines cutting them down from the top, laying them over one another until the truck is overflowing with bunches of hops.
Then inside, they are hung up by a machine that shakes them so the flowers/cones, fall onto a conveyor belt. Then they travel through a series of machines where excess stems and leaves are removed and eventually, the glorious cones are laid out on a flat bed and slightly kiln dried from the bottom eliminating any excess water that may have been trapped in the hops.
When the process is complete, fresh hops are poured into huge totes and loaded on trucks to make the “HOP TRIP” back to the brewery, and within about 4-5 hours, hops go from the bine (vine) to the kettle!!
Each year, we use fresh hops in many brews. Some small experimental batches are made at our Bend and Portland pubs…
AND, there are two delicious beers that we package and send out to you:
If you can chase these two brands down, you’ll get a small whiff of what it is like to be a part of the fresh hop journey!
**Be sure to enjoy these fresh hop beers while they are FRESH! Check the best by dates to be sure you’re only getting this beer while it is in season… look for them this October and…
CHEERS to Fresh Hop Beers!
– Gina Schauland