Brewmaster’s Log – Day Four of Hop Harvest Week 2016

This week our Brewmaster, Jeremy, and a few other folks from the brewery are out in Yakima Valley, Washington, where they’re meeting with hop farmers, checking out this year’s harvest and selecting the hops we’ll be brewing with in the coming year. To bring you an inside look at the hop harvest process, Jeremy will be logging a recap each day this week – shared with members of the Cadre first!

Jeremy’s Day Four Recap: 

Hello, dear Cadre. It’s been a fantastic adventure, but I’m afraid our time in Yakima is coming to a close. I can honestly say that this trip never fails to impress, though! The quality of the hops this year has been as good as ever, and I’ve seen a lot of farms investing in new equipment and expanding their operations. I’ve run into brewer friends from all over the country and made a few new friends, too. It’s been an amazing opportunity to hang out with our hop growers, talk about the state of the industry and the issues and challenges that face us both, and just generally get inspired by their sheer awesomeness.

First up this morning was a visit to Darren Gamache at VGF Farms. Darren is responsible for the Amarillo hop that has such a big footprint in various Founders beers, including All Day IPA and Red’s Rye IPA. New at VGF Farms this year is a brand new picking facility – a huge project that was completed just in time for this year’s harvest. This year’s Amarillo crop seemed very consistent from yard to yard, which is excellent since it took many, many yards to fill up our enormous contract amount (we use a lot of Amarillo hops). 

VGF Farms exterior

Pile of hops

A trip to Perrault Farms is always one of my favorite parts of the week. Not only do they have one of the nicest picking facilities in the valley, but Jason Perrault is also a master hop breeder. His experimental hop yards are where many of the next great hop varieties can be found. Not only that, but he has a little test brewhouse on site where he can actually brew with these experimental varieties. It’s truly an amazing experience to walk his hop yards and rub and smell new varieties that he’s excited about, and then go and actually drink beer brewed with these hops. He’s got some really cool and unique hops that he’s working on and I can’t wait until I can get my hands on some!Two people smelling hops

opening hops

Our last stop today was at the Carpenter Ranch, where we were welcomed by Brad Carpenter himself. We all hopped in Brad’s big red Ford truck (everyone there drives big red Ford trucks) and he took us out into the hop yard to see his crews at work in the fields. The Carpenters have developed a unique method that actually picks and collects the hops right in the field, while leaving the bines behind. We stopped to pick up Cleo, his pug, and drove on to check out a few experimental yards that they’re growing for the Hop Breeding Company. 

pug dog

group of people talking in the hop fields

Tomorrow is our last day here, and we’ll begin the day with a huge Simcoe selection at Yakima Chief Hopunion, followed by a tour of Hollingbery and Son’s brand new pelletizing facility, and the rest of the afternoon at the Haas Innovation Center. I can’t stress enough how important it is to cultivate these relationships with the people responsible for what goes into our beers, and how thankful I am that they are all so willing to take time out of their busiest days of the year to hang out with us brewers! Cheers to hop growers everywhere!

Check out a few photos from today below and follow along on Snapchat to see more from our trip (username: foundersbrewing):

farm equipment

farm equipment carrying hops

dog laying in the sun

hop fields

close up of hops plant

smelling hops

trucks with hops

two men talking

loading hops into equipment indoors

hops on a belt

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