Harvest Time

One of the unintended benefits of craft brewing was how it brought the farm back into the process. Industrial beer is so over-processed one hardly has the sense it comes from the fields. But in craft beer, particularly with the emphasis on hopping, one immediately grasps the source. (The trend toward organics has only deepened our appreciation of the process.)

When I was a kid growing up in Boise, Idaho, we used to drive through hop fields near Parma on the way to my grandparents' house near Ontario. The entire Treasure Valley is agricultural, but there was something quite striking about the hop fields. So tall were the vines that it was like driving into a small forest. Perhaps it was the way my dad used to admire them, suggesting something mature--almost illicit--about their role in his fave beverage that originally primed me to become a beerhound.

Hop harvesting is slightly more mechanized than it used to be--workers no longer haul the vines down and pick the cones by hand. (If you've done that with home-grown hops, you know that it's a sticky, hand-roughening experience.) But it's still pretty elemental. I'll put a nice video below that shows the process. Toward the end, you'll see the drying room. What they don't describe is the feeling of this place, which is worth mentioning. It's very hot there, and as the hops dry, they turn the room into a sauna. And the aroma! The heat and humidity lift some of the resinious tastiness into the air; when hopheads breathe this in, they almost begin to vibrate with a contact high.

Here's the video, of Goschie farms in Silverton:

Also of note, the fresh hop ales are arriving. BridgePort Hop Harvest and Full Sail Lupulin are out (Bill has reviews). Laurelwood's was brewed a week ago and will be available 9/22. I know that the Lab is doing another round of the Mutt, and Lompoc has got something cookin' too. Also, next month there will be another round of Tastivals--fresh hop festivals on three weekends at different places around the state. I'll give you more details on those when it gets closer.