What makes fresh hop beers so special in the Pacific Northwest?
Kevin Quinn of Bale Breaker Brewing sits down for the Drink Beer, Think Beer podcast this week and talks with awe about the sense of place that comes with harvesting and brewing with freshly picked hops.
You can only do it in this certain window, which is cool and there is some unpredictability to it,” he says. “For the rest of the year we’re using extract for bittering and that’s tried and true and we’re brewing the same beers over and over.”
For the fresh hop beers “we don’t get to choose what feels right. We just know that if we want to do Citra we can look at the harvest schedule and we don’t know exactly what the aromatics are going to be.”
With most of the United States hop production concentrated in this region, Quinn knows that getting hops to brewers fast for fresh hop beers are critical. Perhaps there is no brewery in the United States that can do it faster than Bale Breaker.
Located on the hop farm he says it takes less than five minutes to get the hops from the bine to the brew kettle.
Other breweries in other states have experimented with fresh hopped beers, using UPS or FedEx to get farm fresh hops into their beers within 24 hours, but Quinn notes that there will be a decline in flavor and aroma from that delay.
That doesn’t mean that breweries shouldn’t try.
Bale Breaker partnered with Alaska Airline’s cargo division this year to bring fresh hops from Yakima to Alaska and Hawaii for fresh hop beers. It was a cannonball run of sorts.
They quickly picked and packed a few hundred pounds of Simcoe, along with some other new hop products, drove to SeaTac Airport and took to the skies.
“We ended up brewing with Maui Brewing in Maui last week,” he said. They flew back “and then last Friday we brewed in Anchorage, obviously, where Alaska Airlines was founded. Alaska Airlines randomly was founded the same year as our hop farm both in 1932.”
This is the time of year to be drinking fresh hop IPA and this episode of the Drink Beer, Think Beer podcast has great insight direct from the farm and brewhouse.