To be in the Yakima valley for the hop harvest is on the bucket list of many craft beer brewers and aficionados. Check! Visitors to the farms this time of year get to see the towering hop bines at their peak height basking in the warm sun and shimmering with bright green hop cones. I am 6 foot 4 and I feel like a toddler among these NBA players of the plant world. Its not only the visual majesty, the complex grassy, piney and floral aromas flow through the hop yards and processing facilities bombarding your senses at every turn. Even the multi-generational hop farmers, who have experienced this cycle all their lives, seem genuinely proud and humbled by the giants they have cultivated. The marveling doesn’t last long however, because pride soon turns to anxiousness, as they prepare themselves for the laborious harvest which will go on 24/7 for the next several months. Yes they even harvest at night so they can get the whole crop picked at its peak. Thank you hop farmers!
Of course this was a “business trip,” albeit one I would gladly pay to attend if it weren’t related to the business of brewing our hop water. I was invited by our co-op of hop farmers YCH Hops for a few days of presentations, which included one by guest hop expert Stan Heyronomous, author of the book For the Love of Hops. I wish I would have brought my book to have him autograph it.
A highlight of the trip was the tour of the renowned Perrault Farms. There I got to walk through experimental hop groves, where they are cultivating future “hop stars” like the recent Simcoe® hop they happen to be harvesting when I was there. If you have ever wondered, hops are not genetically modified. They are cross bread the old fashion way and evaluated for aroma, flavor and other characteristics. Results determine which new varieties are adopted and cultivated. Interestingly I learned that some farmers use environmentally friendly ladybugs to ward off pests and some plant “cover crops” in-between the rows to reduce weeds. The Perrault family just upgraded their hop separating equipment to a new state of the art system located in the middle of their farm. I was privileged to get a tour and recorded few photographs and a short video on my phone while I was there. So if you ever wondered how hops go from farm to bottle, this is your chance to find out. Click here to check it out and some other videos on H2OPS Hop Water.
PS: You get extra credit if you can spot the lady bug in the video.
Founder & Brewer
H2OPS Sparkling Hop Water