It’s here again–the harvest season. Specifically, it’s hop harvest time, which runs from August through October depending on varietal, growing location and weather. Living here in the lovely state of Washington, we have a fantastic amount of hop products easily available–we are, after all, the producers of 77% of the country’s hops. But what especially excites brewers and drinkers about this proximity this time of year is the availability of fresh or wet hops. As you know, brewers use a number of hop products–dried whole-leaf hops, dried pelletized hops, hop oils and hop extracts. Hops do not store well fresh, so all these products are preserved versions that will be available for months after harvest provided proper handling and storage. The window for utilizing fresh hops just picked is extremely short–and in fact, breweries farther from the hop fields frequently will overnight a shipment directly to the brewery. Seattle is only a few hours’ drive from the Yakima Valley growing area, so brewers will merely drive and pick up a load, usually brewing with the hops as soon as they arrive on site, whatever time of day or night.
So what’s the fuss about wet hops, if most of the beer we consume doesn’t ever involve them?
It’s nearly that time again, for local Oktoberfest celebrations and packed store shelves showcasing Oktoberfestbiers and Märzens! Most Americans are familiar with the festival as a fantastic excuse to drink German-style beer, but the origins and beer style itself are slightly separate from the huge occasion around the globe today.Read More
There are many ways to broadly categorize hops: genetics, typical uses, prominent flavors, regional availability and history to name just a few. It’s an exciting time to be a beer enthusiast as contemporary hop breeding and development programs are thriving. While we here in the US happily welcome newer trademarked hops like Amarillo® and Simcoe® into the canon I think it’s a great time to throw a look back to the original gangster hop group, noble hops: Hallertauer, Tettnanger, Saaz and Spalt.Read More
If you’ve been perusing the grocery beer shelves much this season, you’ve probably noticed a lot of fruit flavored beer. Fruit beer isn’t a new concept– macro producers, a few US craft breweries and of course Belgian ales have made some flavor combinations common, but there’s been an exponential increase in selection recently. Why all the fruit these days, and what does the trend mean for the market?Read More
Like any craft beer drinker, you’re probably accustomed to seeing International Bitterness Units (IBU) posted on chalkboard menus and printed on cans and labels. American brewers love their hops, and American consumers love their amped-up IBUs, especially here on the West Coast. In fact, the craft beer market share of IPAs increased nearly tenfold since 2008, diversifying into subcategories like Session IPAs, Belgian IPAs, Imperial IPAs, and Black IPAs. Novice or cocksure drinkers often make the mistake of assuming that the higher the IBU, the better the beer or the more “intense” or bragworthy their choice will be considered. But there’s a lot more that goes into how bitterness and hoppy flavors are perceived, achieved, and explained.Read More
For most states in the nation, 64 oz. reusable glass containers have become a normal option for packaged beer sales. Although conceived of in its current form in the late 1980’s, the growler concept is not new. Before the widespread availability of glass and well before canned beer, consumers were bringing lidded metal pails to saloons and brewpubs for lunchtime worker consumption or evening family drinking. To-go beer fresh from the taps has undoubtedly been a customer desire basically since breweries existed. In recent years, growler sales have flourished in the US, leading to growler sections in some supermarket coolers and entire businesses based solely upon filling growlers.Read More
Kölsch is a light-bodied, pale malt beer hailing from Köln, Germany, the nation’s fourth-largest city with just over a million inhabitants. Many American breweries produce contemporary versions of the style, especially come summer when drinkers tend to seek out crisp, refreshing sessionable beers. But hardly anyone knows the real background of the style, a beer inseparable from Koln’s history and cultural identity.Read More
I’m assuming that if you’re reading this, you probably like beer. You may even have a healthy or perhaps unhealthy obsession with beer. It’s also probably likely that you know someone who doesn’t enjoy beer. I hear it frequently: “Beer is too ________ for me.” I’m not here to proselytize my personal tastes and I don’t recommend you try either, but I’ve boiled down a few healthy ways to encourage a reluctant beer taster or introduce a newbie to craft beer. Many of us spent our first few imbibing years consuming macro beer or low-quality liquors, so it’s no wonder advancing beyond is often a challenge. It doesn’t have to be that way, especially with all the craft options available today and more understanding about taste.Read More
Cluster hops are one of the oldest varieties grown and used commercially in the US. Originally bred from a European hop brought by early settlers and a native North American hop, Cluster has mostly fallen out of favor in the brewing industry, partially due to the increased demand for high-alpha types typically used for bittering IPAs and other hop-forward bitter ales. Until the late 1970s however, most of the hop acreage in the US was dedicated to growing Cluster, initially in New York state, and eventually in dry central Washington state. Cluster is fairly resistant to disease, but is susceptible to mildew and does not produce in as high of volume as many hops currently selected for market.Read More
Water, hops, yeast, and barley: essential elements of beer. We talk nearly nonstop about hops here in the Pacific Northwest, and for good reason. The Yakima Valley growing region supplies 77% of America’s hops and exports two-thirds of their total product globally. But we tend to forget that the Northwest is also a fruitful agricultural center for barley. Washington state ranks fourth in the nation for total production, and the WSU Barley Breeding Program is an ongoing testament to a strong focus on development. Notably, wheat has also been bred at WSU for over a hundred years. It’s evident we have a strong local commitment to growing quality cereal grains. While only 4% of the barley grown here is destined for the malt house, the Washington Grain Commission estimates that most craft brewers use 3.4% more barley per pint than macro breweries. At 25 pounds (or more) dry malted grain needed per keg (that’s half a barrel; about 120 pints), this adds up quickly, especially for production craft breweries who might brew 20-90 barrels at a time, multiple times per week and/or day. After the mashing process, when all possible malt sugars are extracted and drained away, the hydrated malt is removed from the mash tun and disposed of in various ways. For obvious reasons, it can become extremely tedious and expensive to merely shovel this spent grain in the dumpster. Municipal waste retrieval has limits, even for large food and beverage production companies. And more importantly, spent grain still has value in other uses.Read More