Each September, we return to Yakima, WA, for what is probably every brewer in the U.S.’s favorite time of year – the annual hop harvest. Throughout the course of just a couple of weeks, our brewing team will select new, experimental hop varieties from the many farms scattered across the valley, re-up contracts for some of our heavy-hitting favorites (i.e. Amarillo, Simcoe, Cascade) and meet with the growers who make it all happen, most of whom we call friends. Learn more about exactly what goes on during those weeks here.
One of our friends out in Yakima is Kevin Smith, owner and head brewer at Bale Breaker Brewing Company in Yakima, WA. His family owns Loftus Ranches which sits adjacent to the brewery and each year they look forward to the multitudes of brewers who make the sojourn to select their annual allotment of hops. For Jeremy, our Brewmaster, each return to Yakima is not complete without a stop (or many stops) at Bale Breaker Brewing Company to drink and chat with Kevin and his family. Both have immense mutual respect for one another as brewers, so when the prospect of collaborating on a beer was pitched to them by a friend from Yakima Chief Hopunion, a hop brokerage, they both jumped at the chance.
Kevin is currently working with Jeremy and our R&D Brewer, Diamond, in our classic 30bbl brewhouse to brew an IPA that features a brand-spanking new experimental hop called… HBC 522! What an exciting name! HBC 522 has notes of cherry and peach accompanied by a candy-like sweetness in the aroma. Kevin and Jeremy developed the recipe for this yet-to-be-named beer and will brew a batch for our taproom here in Grand Rapids and Jeremy will fly out to Yakima in a month or so to brew a batch of the same beer at Bale Breaker.
You will see this beer on tap in our taproom in just a couple of weeks and at Bale Breaker’s in just a couple of months – a pretty special thing considering up until just a few months ago we could not distribute to the great state of Washington.
Check out the photos below to see the process: