CBB visited the hop harvest for the first time in 2016. It was, well, pretty rad — holding a fist full of fresh cones in our hands, watching wet hop brews being concocted, roaming fields and process facilities and capturing the blossoming lupulin promised land of Oregon with images and stories. The dank. Oh, the dank. Situated in the rain shadow of Mt. Hood and in the heart of the Willamette Valley, we stayed at the farmhouse on Rogue Farms, bringing you (the reader) the experience of being a part of one of the most important harvests in American craft beer history (it was the biggest). That trip spawned some of the stories below, which we’ve paired nicely with some of the best hop-focused features in 2016.
We give Rogue Farm‘s Cher Gillson complete credit for carrying this video. She turns her knowledge of farming and growing hops into pure entertainment. Just watch above. As Rogue’s “beer farmer,” Gillson took the entire day to help us shoot a video on how hops are harvested and processed, and her spunk and infectious laugh turned our 2016 hop harvest into a buddy comedy. I’d also like to thank Michelle Hill (new CBB MVP) for handling all the camera work. In this video, we explore how a hop goes from the bine to bale and all the processes in between. Enjoy (we sure did).
Craft beer has challenged hop growers. New varieties. Enormous demand. Huge acreage. Varied products: whole cone, pellets, CO2 extract, hop hash and beyond. The indie beer industry has forced the hop industry to quickly and dramatically evolve over the last decade, and there have been challenges, failures and successes. In the spirit of the latter, brewing brands like Schlafly are creating innovative ways to make those evolutions easier, planning for the hops of tomorrow, today. In July, the Schlafly launched its cool Hop Trial SMaSH Pack.
As craft continues to demand more aroma hops, acreage and production alike increased yet again this year, while average yields per acre continue to decline largely due to new acreage and lower yielding varieties growing in share. Still, the 2016 hop harvest saw an increase of 8.3 million more pounds, 87.1 million total, of U.S. hops set for brew kettles around the globe. According to the USDA National Agriculture Statistics Service (NASS) report released December 16, production increased 11 percent in 2016, rising in all three major producing states of Idaho, Oregon and Washington.
Every year, Hopsteiner invites customers and brewers to our annual hop harvest. The hop harvest begins at the end of August and runs through September. During the hop harvest, customers get a look at the entire spectrum of the world of hops and can even personally select brewers’ cuts of each variety after thoroughly grading them by appearance and aroma. This year’s hop harvest is set to be the biggest in history. That being said, here are some of the cool, new hop varieties to keep your eye on at hop harvest this year.
We landed in Portland today. We promptly picked up our pimp sled (a Hyundai Elantra) and headed directly to Rogue headquarters for an interview with president Brett Joyce at the nearby Green Dragon (but that is another story my friends). Right now, we’re navigating the Oregon countryside, finding our way to Rogue Farms in haunted Independence, Ore. We’re partnering with Rogue Ales and Spirits this week to celebrate the final days of the 2016 hop harvest, and we’ll be sharing this boots-on-the-ground experience with CBB readers all week long.
Last September, a contingent from Founders Brewing Co., including Brewmaster Jeremy Kosmicki, were out in Yakima Valley, Wash., where they met with hop farmers to check out this year’s harvest and select the hops Founders will be brewing with in the coming year. To bring you an inside look at the hop harvest process, Kosmicki logged cool recaps each day of last week, sharing it with members of the Cadre first. This is Jeremy’s day one recap, and it’s got an amazing set of images to tell its story.
Northern Michigan has all the preconditions to propagate quality hops: long day lengths to flower and produce adequate cone yields and those specific chilling requirements with winter temperatures below 40 degrees F for at least one to two months. Ideal conditions for hop growth include sufficient spring moisture (check) followed by significant periods of summer sun and balmy heat (check) to ensure ample full development of those lovely chemical compounds. Also, marketable yields of hops are produced in well-drained, deep, sandy loam soils (check, check, check).
We spent today in the bines. We spent today soaking up the Oregon sun, exploring harvest-ready hopyards and learning about Rogue Ales and Spirit’s GYO (grow your own) farming philosophies. Today was well spent. If you don’t believe us, just check out the images below. Rogue’s Cheryl Gillson, beer farmer, was our host, and she showed us the beauty and bravery that it requires to actually grow your own beer. We have plenty of stories coming your way about that, but until then, enjoy these photos of our day.
With the high demand for hops these days, brewers need to be cognizant of all that goes into hop selection — predictions of what is coming in the next few years, staying up to date with what’s new in the world of hop breeding and development and even contracts. Crosby Hop Farm is uniquely positioned to help with all of those inquiries. As a vertically integrated hop grower, merchant and processor in the Pacific Northwest, Crosby is a Certified B Corp. and Salmon-Safe grower that sources breweries around the world.
Just as creatively hopped craft beers have captured the taste buds and attention of consumers, so too has the passion and spirit of hop flavors and scents in other products. Soap, candy, beard oil — hops are being transformed into a variety of odd and interesting merchandise that might make an excellent gift for that beer lover in your life. Here’s our 10 favorite, ranging from hop shampoo and weird beard oil to hop candy and even a cool, little homebrewing hop gizmo.