Hop Selection 2014

I’ve just spent the week in Yakima, Washington, USA during hop harvest time. This is the third season I’ve visited specifically to immerse myself in all things that were happening with hops in the region at this time.  It has been a busy week visiting hop farms, talking to hop growers, attending Hopunion’s Hop & Brew School, and tasting a few locally brewed IPA’s.

Hop selection has become an important part of the year for Epic Beer . Each year flying from Auckland, New Zealand to Yakima, WA, USA at the time the hops are harvested makes all the difference to the taste of our beer. We are one of just 90 brewers that select our hops from Hopunion LLC

Selection means you get the opportunity to be presented with a range of different “lots” of hops from different farms and growing areas where that specific variety is grown. From there you are able to select which lot is your preference. Not every brewer is able to do this, as there is a minimum contracted amount of 5000 lb (2272kg) per variety.

You may have heard about terroir in wine. Hops are exactly the same. The same variety can smell different based on where it is grown, and you can experience differences from season to season. This is pretty exciting and it does have an effect on the beer each season. Hence why it is important to be able to get the best hops you can.

Below are some photos showing hop bales, brewers cuts, hop selection, rubbing and smelling and very resinous sticky hands to finish.



NEW ZEALAND HOPS – Harvest 2014

I sent Doug Donelan of New Zealand Hops a quick email as I was interested in finding out the order New Zealand Hops were harvested. This is what he had to share with me:

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“Order depends on area, growers closer to the coast pick Cascade first then Pacifica where as further inland Cascade follows Pacifica. Designation is given as early, mid, late season. The earliest are the English types generally Fuggle, Golding etc…most northern varieties are early, Styrian Goldings were picked this week. Age changes things as well, first year plants generally mature early as well but will settle into the season 2nd year.”

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For New Zealand Varieties it’s a bit like this.

Early: (1st week March)            Pacifica, Motueka, Riwaka

Mid:    (2nd/3rd week March)   Wakatu, Nelson Sauvin, Rakau, Dr Rudi, Southern Cross, Wai-iti, Kohatu, Pacific Gem, Pacific Jade.

Late:   ( End of March)               Sticklebract, Waimea, Green Bullet.

(we are only talking about a 4 week period to harvest 15 NZ varieties, 8 Northern Varieties plus Trials)

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“Not all growers grow all varieties but all need to have a mix to ensure they can optimise the picking windows to stretch across the season. They also can’t be too heavy on one variety over another as the picking windows can’t overlap too closely.”

Cheers Doug. Really appreciate your time (especially at this time of year), and this interesting information.

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