Wouldn’t you know… it’s already the best season of the year for one-off beers.
Hops are being harvested, often getting swept up immediately by local brewers to be quickly fed into their vessels, creating some of the most unique flavors in the form of fresh hopped ales and lagers.
I can barely contain myself. Seriously.
And for the first time, I was able to witness the whole process take place in person. At the invitation of Crosby Hop Farm, I joined a few of my local beer writer compatriots, Pete and Holly, to tour their facility and vast acres of hops, all on the first day of their Centennial Hop Harvest.
So enjoy this visual, step-by-step walk through of our visit on Tuesday and the distinctly unique process of harvesting beer’s preferred spice.
We started our visit with a quick peek at a new plot of land they just started growing 25 acres of Amarillo and 25 acres of Strata on. Another 50 acres of the same hops varieties will be planted soon as well.
Upon arriving at the Centennial plot being harvested, we were greeted by two friendly free-range dogs and a gloriously overfilled hop truck. Before we knew it, we were wading through the rows of soon to be cut hops…
The experience of walking through rows of hops is hard to describe. It’s a magical feeling, especially after the bottoms have been cut loose. With the wind blowing there’s an almost spooky quality to it all.
And before we knew it, the top cutters were quickly moving through the rows, filling up the trucks in no time at all. We probably saw three filled while out in the fields.
And before we headed back to the central processing plant, we had to get a group shot.
Of course the best one landing on my phone happened to be the awkward outtake…
Before we got back to Crosby’s home base, we ran into Justin Miller and Jordan Davis from Hopworks who were picking up fresh Centennials for a 250 barrel batch of fresh hopped Totally Chill Hazy IPA.
Crosby and Hopworks have always had a close relationship, as evidenced by their devotion to sustainable practices, most notably their focus on growing, and brewing with, Salmon Safe Hops. In fact, Hopworks, as part of their 10 Year Anniversary, will be holding the inaugural, first of it’s kind, Salmon Safe IPA Fest tomorrow. Learn more about it and find tickets on their facebook event page.
Next, we headed into the central processing area, where we witnessed the hop bines quickly being hoisted and lined up to go through the machine that separates the hops from the bines. From here, things got a little loud.
Aside from the rush of activity and noise around us, the most astounding part was the sheer volume of hops constantly cruising by. With the residual bines chopped up and sent to a compost holding point, the hops next move into a drying room, heated from below by 4 to 5 large kilns that dry the huge beds.
After 8 hours of subjection to the heat of the kiln, the hops are then moved to a cooling room, resting in huge piles for 24 hours .
Finally, most of the hops are processed on-site into pellets – those that weren’t already set aside for brewers picking up fresh hops. The unique thing here is that Crosby is the only vertically integrated supplier of hops in the state of Oregon – growing, harvesting, sorting, pelletizing and distributing their product.
Even more interesting is the 5 generation history of their family farm, in operation since 1900. They became the first Certified B-Corp hop supplier in 2016, operate on 100% renewal energy, 30% from onsite solar (soon to be doubled), and all the hops grown here are 100% Salmon Safe.
So… next time you’re sipping on a fatty pint of Fresh Hop IPA, ask where the hops came from. They’ve probably been through a similar journey in getting to their final resting place through your face.
Special thanks to Zak, Elizabeth, Heather and all the folks at Crosby Hop Farm for their awesome hospitality!