Reuben’s Brews Makes its First Fresh Hop Foray

 Story by Lynn Sherk, Washington Beer Blog Correspondent-at-Large

For many a beer lover, one of the best parts of early fall is the arrival of the brewing industry’s version of the farm-to-table movement – fresh hop beers.

On the evening of Sept. 3, Reuben’s Brews co-owner and head brewer Adam Robbings and two friends hopped in his car and made the journey east to the Yakima Valley. Their mission? Hit the farm early in the morning to bring back a load of Amarillo hops for the brewery’s first-ever fresh hop beer.

“We knew we had one day in our schedule where we could brew a fresh hop beer,” says Adam. “When we were planning back in July, I said I’d have to come here on this one particular day and take whatever I could. I said I wanted Amarillo or Citra when I went there. As it turned out, they started harvesting the Amarillo the evening before I got there and they finished harvesting the evening I was there. So that worked out well. We were really lucky.”

When the group arrived at Puterbaugh Farms, they were taken on a tour of the facility to see how hops are processed, dried and packaged.

They watched as bines were hung on giant lines that moved them inside where a machine stripped off the cones. Once stripped, the cones move by conveyer belt to the giant kiln to be dried before packaging.

“The kiln was this big room with 3-foot-deep beds of hops,” says Adam. “Underneath were wooden slabs with mesh where the heat comes up to dry them out. They heat them for a day or so at about 85 degrees until the moisture content of the hops is about 8-10 percent. At that percentage, you still get the flavor of the hop, but the hops are stable enough to be kept for a long time.”

Adam Robbings and friend Conrad Hermosillo (right) gather the 42 pounds of fresh hops for Reuben’s Brews
Adam Robbings and friend Conrad Hermosillo (right) gather the 42 pounds of fresh hops for Reuben’s Brews

Because all of the hops are processed the same way, they all end up in the kiln. To get the fresh hops, Adam went around to the back of the kiln to fill his boxes before the drying process started. From there, it was a race to get the hops back to the brewery and into the tanks as quickly as possible.

“I headed for home at about 9 or 9:30 and at about 11, I called Mike [Pfeiffer, Reuben’s brewer] and said, ‘Mash in!’ So when I got to the brewery around 1, the boil had almost started. We emptied out all of the grain from the mash tun and dumped in the 42 pounds of fresh hops. The we whirlpooled the fresh hop wort like normal and then moved it into the mash tun and let it sit for 10 minutes and then put it into the fermenter. There was a small amount of bittering from the pellets, but all of the flavor is from the fresh hops.”

Those 42 pounds of hops were made into 4 ½ barrels of Reuben’s Amarillo Fresh Hop Pale, which was released on Sept. 19. If you’re lucky, there may still be some available at the brewery.

And just wait until next year – Adam is thinking about brewing more than one fresh hop beer next season.



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