UPDATED TUESDAY SEPT 1 – See the list of participating breweries below.
Today, it begins. Fresh hop season. This afternoon I will partake in an annual ritual: hop picking. At a local brewery, which is notorious for getting the very first Yakima hops to “come ready” each year, a group of us will gather around big tables to pluck the luscious cones from the bines, filling Rubbermaid containers and 30-gallon garbage cans one hop flower at a time.
This is the signal announcing the arrival of the fresh hop season. The finale, for me at least, is the Yakima Fresh Hop Ale Festival on October 3rd.
As soon as we’re done picking and plucking those hops today, they’ll be put to good use. In about two weeks we’ll be drinking the first fresh hop ale of the season. (Need a quick lesson on fresh hop beer? click here.)
These hops come from one small corner of a farm where the hops typically “come ready” a bit earlier than the rest. I’ve been told by an expert in the hop industry that Oregon plans to start harvesting on the 15th and Washington farmers plan to start harvesting about a week thereafter. So yes, this is early.
Many other breweries across the region and around the nation will soon follow suit and within six weeks you’ll see fresh hop ales on tap lists far and wide. It’s a sign of the season. In recent years especially, fresh hop ale has become wildly popular.
Yakima Fresh Hop Ale Festival
On October 3rd in Yakima, hop farmers and beer lovers will drink fresh hop ales side-by-side at the 13th Annual Yakima Fresh Hop Ale Festival. Tickets are on sale now and hotel rooms are selling out fast. The time to make your plans is NOW! This is part of the larger 2015 Fresh Hop Beer Week, though we’ve yet to get details about that.
Literally, at this event, hops are in the air in Yakima. During the harvest season, and as the hops are processed at Yakima hop houses, you can smell them as you walk down the street.
Hop farming is a way of life in Yakima. Each year the Yakima Valley produces about 75 percent of the U.S. hop crop. That’s about 25 percent of the world’s hop crop. For the farmers and the people who work directly or tangentially with the hop industry, this event is about more than beer. It’s about hops.
There is no better place to celebrate your love for humulus lupulus than Yakima, Washington. We’re blessed. Simply put, for hop heads, Yakima Fresh Hop Ale Festival is it. Everything. Not to be missed.
BTW, the unnamed brewery mentioned above is Two Beers Brewing in Seattle, which is often the first brewery around Seattle to secure a load of fresh hops. The public is welcome today at 4:00 pm to help pluck the hops from the bines. (August, 5th)
Bale Breaker Brewing
Barley Browns Brewing
Base Camp Brewing
Double Mountain Brewing
Fat Heads Brewery
Full Sail Brewing
Hale’s Ale Brewery
Hop Nation Brewing
Horse Heaven Hills Brewing
Ice Harbor Brewing
Iron Goat Brewing
Iron Horse Brewing
Laht Neppur Brewing
Old Schoolhouse Brewing
Paradise Creek Brewing
pFriem Family Brewers
Shrub Steepe Smokehouse & Brewery
Sierra Nevada Brewing
Snipes Mountain Brewing
Triple Horn Brewing
Two Beers Brewing
Yakima Craft Brewing