Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Fresh Hop Ale

If fresher is better, fresh hop ale must be best. 

Pick 'em, Pitch 'em
Since hops are harvested just once a year, late summer is the only chance for craft and home brewers to succumb to the drop everything urgency to make this unique harvest season ale.

Once picked, fresh hops are added to the boil within 24 hours. Because drying concentrates flavors, six times as many wet as dried hops are required. But whoa, what an aroma and bittering difference between hops that are picked and pitched into the boil within a day, and hops that have been picked, then processed, then dried, and finally bagged and put into storage. Think present tense vs. past; imagine morning grass, dripping wet with dew vs. dusty straw, field dried and baled months ago.

Bend Bound
Time is prime to cook a batch, like the Deschutes brewers do about now each year. They make the four hour trip back to Bend to toss freshly harvested hops into their cauldrons. Come October their award winning once-a-year beer, Hop Trip, is ready for celebrating the changing of the seasons. 
Hopqua Fresh Hop Ale

Enjoy a local fresh connection on tap: Hopqua fresh hop ale is made with a cornucopia of cones grown locally in the Umpqua Valley, and generously donated by patrons of McMenamin's Roseburg Station. Depending on what the hop garden growers bring in, Tom Johnson, McMenamin's brewer, estimates about 38 pounds will be added late in the boil, and that his Hopqua and the company Thundercone fresh hop ales will be ready toward the end of September.

Fresh Hop Festivals

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Field of Dreams

Horizontal this year, vertical next year 
Willamette Valley commercial hop growing one day may be rivaled by crops raised here in the Umpqua Valley: Melrose Vineyards winemaker Cody Parker planted three acres of Centennial hops last June on a patch of land between one of his vineyards and the Umpqua River.
Irrigating from the Umpqua River

“I threw all the plants down on a credit card to try to make something from nothing, said Parker.”

Just as grapes from different regions give wines unique flavor profiles, Parker wants to develop a distinct Umpqua Valley hops character for craft brewing.  "I want to grow our own community, to have a terroir of beers." 
Hops good, weeds bad

Now that the rhizomes are established, 18 foot trellises must be erected for the plants to creep up.

Besides the capital outlay to build the trellises out of lodge poles, cable, and turnbuckles, Parker wants to invest in a Wolf 140, a German-made automated processor to take the intensity out of the labor of manual picking.

The winemaker doesn't plan to rip out grape vines to plant hop bines, but he does have long term ambitions to put another 30 acres under cultivation. Just as beer and wine are suitable on the same table, hops can be grown next to grapes in an Umpqua Valley field of dreams.

The future of processing hops in the Umpqua Valley:

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Hop Crop

A high row to hoe

Harvest is underway in homebrewer gardens in the Umpqua Valley, and in the commercial hopyards of Oregon, Washington, and Idaho.

Unless the hop bines are cut at the top and laid on the ground for easy picking, the homebrewer must climb a 12 foot orchard ladder, dropping the lupulin-laden cones into a plastic bucket cinched at the waist. 

 The harvested hops are spread out over screened frames for drying. During this August heat wave, the wait won't be long for them to be ready for weighing in one or two ounce portions, then put into plastic bags,vacuum sealed, and refrigerated until pitched in the brew kettle.

Morning harvest, afternoon homebrews

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Bend Brewfest

Idyllically set between the Deschutes Brewery and River, and bountifully stocked with over 100 choices from 51 breweries and cideries, the 9th Annual Bend Brewfest serves from Thursday through Saturday.
BBF Taplist

Lots of beers, not lots of long lines
Not only does the BBF boast many more beers than you could possibly, let alone legally, taste in three days, you won't have to fight the 80,000+ crush of humanity that is Portland's Oregon Brewers Festival.

Cool off in the Deschutes River
What: Bend Brewfest
When: Thurs., Aug. 16 - Sat., Aug. 18
Where: Les Schwab Amphitheater
Why: Summer =  Outdoor Beer Festivals

World's biggest beer token

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

World Changer

Back in the day of the grey flannel suit, Mr. Fifties was living the good life drinking his High Life.

He didn't know how his American lager would change the world, but his beer buzz was talking, telling him that somehow it will.

Although not for another thirty years, Planet Beer did change. In 1979 only 89 breweries operated in the U.S. From then, though, when microbreweries began crafting ales, until today, the number of breweries has grown to a record 2,126. The number of U.S. craft brewers is over 2,000, with domestic non-craft brewers accounting for the rest.

Reference: Brewers Association

Monday, August 6, 2012

Breweries Explode--Details at 11!

Eruption of breweries in Bend
That slosh in your glass just might be a tremblor from a tectonic plate shift on Planet Beer. While it's difficult to imagine any other city in Oregon, or anywhere else in the world for that matter, wresting the claim of Beervana from Portland, it can't be denied that Bend is becoming a volcanic hot spot in the craft beer Ring of Fire.

Everyone's heard of Deschutes, the fifth largest craft brewery in the nation, but what about the other double digit number of breweries in Bend and Central Oregon? Have you celebrated the good life at GoodLife? How worthy are the beers of Worthy? Hey guys, have you had a Boneyard Girl Beer?

Besides Deschutes, few Central Oregon beers are available here in the Umpqua Valley, so head east over the Cascades to visit these Bend area breweries, now serving, opening soon, or in the dream stage:   

  • 10 Barrel
  • Ale Apothecary
  • Below Grade
  • Bend
  • Boneyard
  • Brew Werks
  • Cascade Lakes (Redmond)
  • Crux Fermentation Project
  • Deschutes
  • GoodLife
  • McMenamins Old St. Francis School
  • Phat Matt's (Redmond)
  • Rat Hole
  • Silver Moon
  • Solstice (Prineville)
  • Sunriver
  • Three Creeks (Sisters)
  • Worthy
Bend Beer Map
Bend Brewfest