On a recent episode of the Brewer to Brewer podcast Matt Cole of Fat Head’s Brewery interviewed Joe Mohrfeld of Pinthouse Pizza and Brewery. The conversation eventually turned to hop selection.

Mohrfeld, who previously worked at Odell Brewing, has a lot of experience with hop selection and has expanded his perspective beyond rubbings and lot selections. He is big on relationships and looking at how the farms in the Pacific Northwest operate.

In his own words

“We tend to be very relationship driven with our farmers. I spent a little over a decade traveling back and forth between the Pacific Northwest. So I’ve gotten some pretty good relationships with some farms up there and value those relationships a lot and have been watching how they’ve put in infrastructure into their farms, how they treat their employees.

We want the values from the farms that we’re purchasing our raw materials from, to allign as much as they can with our company’s values.

So, we look at that as something that’s important to us. We go up there for selection, we select on site in Yakima, we have a small group, two of the guys have basically been up with me, for the last, well, if you take 2020 out of it, you know, basically the last seven to eight years we’ve been selecting together.

We have a pretty good shared language that we use. And then our other guy that’s joined us, he’s been with us about five years. So we have a pretty tight team, we usually try to bring in one or two additional voices every year, someone new that we rotate in, just to get a sense of maybe we’re missing something, maybe we’re kind of getting blind to a note or, they might have a exceptionally good palate for a certain hop that we don’t.

I’m the first one to admit I struggle with Mosaic more than I struggle with any other hop in the selection process. But then when it comes to Simcoe, I think we’ve been very locked in over the years. So it’s good to bring in those voices.

We head up every year, we request some of the same farms. We’ve found that we do have whether you want to call it terroir or originality, that we do like in our beer. And we’ve selected a blind sometimes.

We’ve found that certain farms from certain parts of the valley just hits the profile that we’re looking for.

So, I would say we’re kind of a partial blind selector. We do you like to be able to smell some outliers. I’ll spend time driving around the valley try to check out at least a few new farms every year and try to see their operation and go some hops on the drying floor and get a sense for what they’re doing and try to understand their business. I want to build more relationships understand more what’s going on in the valley.

And then I guess the other thing like I said, we select in a semi blind before we make our final decision. I’ll look at the farm and make sure it’s a farm that we trust.

We have been burned in the past a couple of times where we’ve liked it purely blind -this was a number of years ago – but a lot of it ended up being a lot of debris in the hops, and we had some issues with it. So, although it was sold really good on the table, it didn’t translate very well into the final product.

I look at that relationship element as knowing the farm practices and what they’re doing to mitigate some of those things and to ensure high quality long term downstream for us.

There’s definitely sometimes where we’ve had a rub that we thought was just phenomenal but weren’t familiar with that farm. So we went for our second choice that we thought was exceptional as well. I try to use that as an opportunity to find that farm next year, and maybe go visit them, and start to learn who they are, because then you can see that they’re growing really good hops, and they could be a potential candidate for the future.”

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The above transcript was condensed and edited for clarity.