From August to October, hop yards are harvesting all over America. Most of these farms are in the Pacific Northwest (Oregon, Washington and Idaho) where nearly the entire U.S. crop is grown, but boutique hop farms have sprouted up all over the United States (go Ohio). It’s a special season for both beer pros and beer enthusiasts. It’s the time of year when a lot of craft breweries visit these farms to purchase future product, build supplier relationships and also to bag freshly picked hops to rush back to the brewery and concoct unique recipes using just harvested kilned cones (fresh hop beer) or unkilned cones (wet hop beer).
Of course, many parts of the country can’t or don’t grow hops (it’s very hard to do) — places like Alaska or Hawaii for instance — so brands in those regions don’t often get the opportunity to produce fresh or wet hop products. So, it was interesting to see Kihei, Hawaii-based Maui Brewing Co. and Anchorage, Alaska-based 49th State Brewing Co. worked out a partnership with Alaska Air Cargo, Yakima Chief Hops and Yakima, Wash.’s Bale Breaker Brewing Co. to get fresh hops delivered this fall brew season. It’s also interesting to see where those beers will be showcased.
Last week, Alaska Air Cargo announced it had delivered the industry’s biggest fresh hop run within 24 hours of harvest — more than 1,200 lbs to Maui Brewing in Hawaii and 49th State Brewing in Alaska. From the press release:
“Using Alaska Air Cargo, we can guarantee the supply chain all the way from field to the kettle,” said David McCarthy, co-founder of 49th State Brewing. “Aficionados of beer are really looking for this flavor, and we’re excited we can now make the freshest beer in Anchorage and the whole Alaska market.”
How did this happen? Well, just-picked hops were bagged onsite at Loftus Ranches, one of Yakima’s longest running family-owned hop farms and the site of Bale Breaker Brewing. From there, the hops were loaded into refrigerated trucks and driven to the Alaska Air Cargo offices at Sea-Tac International Airport (see that Seattle photo at the top of this post) just in time to load onto the aircraft. Then, more than 1,200 lbs of hops were shipped nonstop to the brewers. Ignoring the carbon footprint of such an endeavor, the coolest part of this partnership is where these beers will end up.
During October, Alaska Lounge members and guests will have the chance to sip and savor fresh hop beers from the three breweries at Alaska Air Cargo Lounges in Seattle, Portland and Anchorage. The three breweries are actually located at popular Alaska Air flight destinations, so it’s a clever tie-in.
“This is a potential game-changer for the craft beer industry and farm-to-glass collaboration at its finest,” says Adam Drouhard, cargo managing director for Alaska Airlines, noting that Washington state grows almost three-quarters of the U.S. hop crop. “This puts a Northwest agricultural product in places that don’t normally get it. With the size and scope we have in Seattle, we are really positioned to own this.”
Here’s the info on the beers:
Bale Breaker Brewing Company Yakima, WA
The beers: Homegrown Fresh Hop IPA and Citra Slicker Wet Hop IPA
Where to try them:
- On draft at Alaska Lounges in Sea-Tac International Airport in North Satellite and Concourse C. And at its Lounge in Portland International Airport.
- On draft and in 16-ounce can 4-packs at Bale Breaker Brewery in Yakima on Loftus Ranches, the Smith family-owned hop farm is also celebrating its 90th anniversary this year.
- On draft and in 16-ounce can 4-packs in Seattle’s Ballard Brewing District, as well as throughout Bale Breaker’s distribution footprint in Washington, Oregon and Idaho. Use the beer finder on their website to locate their fresh hops near you.
49th State Brewing Anchorage, AK
The beer: Freshial Delivery Hazy Fresh Hop IPA
Where to try it:
- On draft at the Alaska Lounge in Anchorage International Airport.
- On draft and in 16-ounce can 4-packs at 49th State Brewing downtown in Anchorage and at select liquor stores and restaurants across the state of Alaska.
Hops flown: 454 pounds
Kegs brewed: Equivalent of 60 kegs (split between different sizes of kegs and cans)
Maui Brewing Co. Kihei, Maui
The beer: Hop Cargo Fresh Hop IPA
Where to try it:
- Coming soon on draft to Alaska’s North Satellite Lounge in Sea-Tac International Airport.
- Coming soon on draft to Maui Brewing Co. in Kihei, Maui.
Hops flown: 833 pounds
Kegs brewed: Equivalent of 140 kegs