For a while there, there was some talk about taking a break on the beer consuming once Oregon Craft Beer Month aka July was over. Well, it seems as though things may have slowed down for a bit following the Oregon Brewers Festival, but with so many interesting events and deliciously innovative brews, there’s really no telling when the fun will end. We don’t suspect it will. Afterall, this is Oregon. Get ready for some hops.
Earlier this month, thanks to Rogue Ales, we were able to get a tour of three different hop farms in the Willamette Valley. A group of beer media folks organized by the kind folks at LAC Communications congregated at the Green Dragon Pub and Bistro in the late morning and set sail down the I-5. Amidst samples of tasty Rogue beers, our first destination was their Independence farm where 250 acres of humulus lupulus is grown. Our propitious and prescient field guide was Dustin Oswald, an employee of the Rogue empire, who showed us around the historic farm where, at one time, 1,000 acres of resinous brewers spice grew to the heavens. In a brief history lesson, we discovered that this very region was once the hops capital of the world. It’s still not too shabby.Currently there are about 6,000 acres of hops grown in Oregon. Farmer John Coleman and his family who manage the Rogue plots in Independence and St. Paul have a stronghold on approximately 20% of the market and are one of the biggest hop growers in the world. In Independence, a half century ago, before the arrival of automated harvesting machinery, some 40,000 to 50,000 people would show up to the farm here to hand pick the hops. Times have changed obviously from the look of things. Today the Colemans run a vast array of farming from grass farming to dairy to beans, hazelnuts, an other vegetables.
An interesting fact about this farm is Rogue’s involvement in all steps of their brewing process from field to bottle. Rogue claims to be the only vertically integrated brewery in America and they could very well be the only one in the world. This hands on approach to their trade has afforded them success worldwide and allowed for the expansion of craft brewing as both a concept and as a practice.
Looking out over the placid landscape, our friend Lisa Morrison noted that hops are “a graceful plant.” And she is quite right. The pace of life out here on the farm is quite relaxed and the Dead Guy Ale tastes a little better.
After leaving Rogue’s Independence farm, we headed northeast to Mt. Angel, Oregon where Annen Brothers and Goschie farms reside. I was family with Mr. John Annen’s dynamic hops operation from last year’s tour I received from Hops 2 You’s Jeff DeSantis. With Hops 2 You, smaller bails of hops are provided to microbreweries like Laurelwood, Upright Brewing, and others. DeSantis and his family also hold a stake in Silverton’s Seven Brides Brewing-Oregon’s brewery with the nearest propinquity to a hop growing site. DeSantis and his brother Ken were on hand to share some amazing Seven Brides beers on tap while providing a spectacular tour of the facility during the actual harvest. Migrant workers participated in various stages of the process from de-husking to drying. Each year the same families make the pilgrimage from a village in Mexico to assist Annen in these duties. Annen Brother is now five generations of hops farmers deep. The original family moved here from Germany in the late 19th Century. Today, they’ve turned hop farming into both a science and an art. Ten different hop varieties are harvest throughout different periods in the late summer–Tetnanger, Rainier, US Saaz, Newport, Fuggles, Willamette, Cascade, Centennial, Liberty, and Nugget.
While at Annen Brothers’ Farm, in Mt. Angel, our group met with Gayle Goschie of Goschie Farms of Silverton. Similar to Annen Brothers, Goschie Farms has a rich family history of hops dating back to the 1880s. The Goschies have made quite an effort to uphold sustainable practices that make Oregon a leader in the way we approach a balance within our environment. Realistically, growing certified organic hops is quite difficult due to pests and mildew concerns. However, Goschie has allotted a portion of their 300+ acres of farmland to growing them. Perhaps even more noteworthy, is the employment of ecologically mindful practices that make Goschie Farms certified as “Salmon-Safe.” Salmon-Safe is a not-for-profit Portland based organization that certifies fish friendly farms in Oregon’s Willamette Valley and is one of the nation’s leading regional eco labels with more than 50,000 acres of farm and urban lands certified. The key for farms like Goschie is to consider every aspect of planting, nurturing, and harvest to ensure the welfare and restoration of agricultural and urban watersheds. Hops grown at Goschie are used by notable Oregon craft breweries like Deschutes.
Heard it through the hop bine:
Today Deschutes will be picking up fresh hops from Goschie Farms to produce a variety of scrumptiously hopped treat included their Hop Trip. Hop Trip is a seasonalbeer featured in Deschutes’ Bond Street Series available in bottles and on tap at the two Deschutes brewpubs.
Tom Bleigh and Vasilios Gletsos of Pyramid Brewing in Portland made a trip to the hop yards on Friday to collect 100 pounds for fresh Cascade cones for a special Wet Hopped Macs. Bleigh told us that the beer will be racked on September 8 and will be unveiled at the Great American Brew Festival in Denver. Look for it after that at Mac’s Taproom in Portland. Should be delicious!
We spoke to Pete Ricks of Beer Valley Brewing, Oregon’s easternmost brewery in Ontario. Ricks is gearing up for a two special fresh hops beers. Once again you will find specially hopped versions of their monstrous flagship Black Flag Imperial Stout with high alpha Tomahawks and the Leafer Madness Imperial Pale Ale. Last year’s brew featured fresh cones of Columbus hops. “We might switch it up this year” said Ricks. “Last year’s (Black Flag) was really bitter. It took a few months for it to calm down.” Look for these brews in specially stamped bottles in coming months as well as at some area Fresh Hop events on tap.
We have also been informed that Laurelwood is anticipating brewing three wet hop beer including ones with Cascades and Willamettes or Tetnangers.
Matt Van Wyk, brewmaster for Oakshire Brewing also informed us that the Eugene brewery will be brewing three different wet hop ales including “Black, red, orange. Cascade, Nugget, Chinook respectively.” We can’t wait!
You can check out these hoppy treats at these special tastivals:
• October 3 – Hood River Hops
• October 10 – Oaks Park, Portland
• October 17 – TBD, Eugene
Noon – 9 p.m., Admission is free; glasses are $5, and individual tastes are $1 each.
Also, if you happen to be in Washington State on October 3, you can attend the Yakima Fresh Hop Fest. For more information visit http://www.freshhopalefestival.com/index.html