Fresh Hops – A Brief Interview

cascade fresh hops smith rock central oregonIt’s that time of year, where reports from local city newspapers, beer bloggers, and craft beer publications take notice of what we’re doing here in Central Oregon. We love the attention, fleeting as it may be. Below is a quick interview with a writer for the Bend Bulletin on the topic of fresh hops:

What makes a fresh hops brew special compared with other options?
It’s totally based on what the consumer prefers. I would never say that a fresh hop beer is any better than a dry whole leaf, pellet, or extracted hop oil beer. But if you are into the farm-to-table idea, then really take some time with fresh hop beers (farm-to-glass?). Getting ingredients into a brew session that quick makes a difference in the aroma or bitterness of a beer (usually aroma in the case of fresh hop beers.)

Why this makes “fresh hops season” so special in Central Oregon and the Northwest?
We have always been lucky in the Pacific NW because of our proximity to some of the greatest hop fields in the world. New hop farms have been popping up all over the country in the past few years, but nowhere outside of German, Czech Republic, and PNW do you have our concentration of hop acreage. This means that ultra fresh hops are only 30 min to a few hours away.
Discuss the work and, more importantly, the timing that goes into creating a fresh hops beer.
The minute a hop cone is picked off of the bine it begins to degrade, like any other piece of produce. So the sooner you can get those cones into the boil or hopback of a brew, the fresher and possible more distinct that beer will taste. Hops are picked either by hand or by machine, and either a brewer will be on site or a farmer will grab the harvest and run it back to the brewhouse where the brewing process is already underway.
smith rock hop farm centennial harvestThe process obviously throws a bit of a wrench in an industry that so honors process, consistency and planning. What makes it worth it?
Again, totally up to the consumer’s palate. Beer enthusiasts who enjoy fresh hop beers like the grassy, fresh notes that come through in the aroma because the brewer took advantage of late hop additions (later in the boil or during transfer to fermentation through the use of a hopback device.) Most brewers make space in their busy brew schedule for fresh hop beers during late August and early September. Think of it like Oktoberfest or Maibock beers. Many of us look forward to that time of year because those beers really focus on specific ingredients, recipes, aromas, and mouthfeel that you might not see any other time of the year except during those few months.
Who have/are you providing these hops to (which breweries)?
Smith Rock Hop Farm has enjoyed providing Wild Ride Brewing, Worthy Brewing, Three Creeks Brewing, and Arches Brewing (Georgia), as well as home brewers in Oregon and California. In 2016 we are looking to supply local newcomer Immersion Brewing with fresh hops, and Kobold Brewing, Bend Brewing, and another brewer in Georgia, with dried hops in pellet form.
Anything featured at the Sisters Fresh Hops Festival?
In the past we have seen a few beers using our hops at the Smith Rock Hop Farm, and it all depends on the timing of harvest and if a brewer can get that beer fermented in time for the festival. Look for something possibly from Immersion!
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