After two days of guiding over 150 commercial brewers through the intense harvest process, we opened our warehouse doors to another group of over 100 craft brewers. The second session is designed to mimic the same farm to kettle experience provided to commercial brewers, yet slightly tailored to better serve our new, nano and home brewer community.
Thursday morning began with a big breakfast and presentations similar to the first session. Pat Purcell, VP of Strategic Accounts and Marketing at Yakima Chief – Hopunion, gave an overview of the hop growing process to prepare the audience for their harvest expedition. He also introduced our attendees to the YCH HOPS brand and the new branded packaging they’ll begin to see in the near future, inspired by our mission to connect family farms to the world’s finest brewers.
Patrick Smith then presented on the various ways that growers are contributing to quality and sustainability, specifically at his family farm, Loftus Ranches. He spoke about their installment of the largest private solar panel system in Washington as well as their efforts to ensure varietal purity, promote healthy soil and implement other quality control methods.
Zach Turner, the Quality Assurance and Sustainability Manager at YCH, presented on quality and sustainability efforts from a production standpoint at YCH HOPS, including the GreenChief™ program, hop selection feedback system, ISO® 9001 and 14001 certification goals and Lean Manufacturing training. These programs help to ensure brewers receive the highest quality hops, while remaining a sustainable company, which you'll read more about in an upcoming blog.
Also similar to the first session, Stan Hieronymus gave a fantastic presentation where he went into great detail on all things hops, including the seven main reasons to love hops—"bitterness, aroma, flavor, mouthfeel, foam and lacing, the fact that they are anti-microbial and their flavor stability." He dove into the science behind hops, how our body processes aroma and how to evaluate and describe the different hop aromas and flavors. Stan also underlined the various ways that this greater hop knowledge can enhance your brewing methods and beer outcomes.
After listening to presentations and a lot of note-taking, it was time for the brewers to experience the ways that YCH plays a part in the farm to kettle process. We headed to our production facilities located in Sunnyside, Washington, where they received an inside look at our pellet plant, extract plant and cold storage warehouse. Brewers were able to see first-hand the ways we focus our efforts on quality and efficiency, and they met our amazing operations team that works tirelessly to ensure that their hops are handled with care.
The second day of presentations started off with guest speaker Gary Glass, who began with the history of home brewing in honor of pioneers like Fred Eckhardt and Byron Burch. He then reported on the positive growth in the home brewing community including the increase in home brew clubs, AHA memberships, competitions, retail outlets, information and the variety of ingredients and equipment.
Next, Denny Conn provided us with a presentation titled, “Citizen Science for a Better Beer,” where he spoke about the process of developing a beer recipe, how to go about changing your recipe and the correct way to assess it. He also recommended gaining a better understanding of your ingredients, beer style and techniques. Some advice from Denny also included, "tell a story with your beer, use your imagination and make the best beer possible while having the most fun possible, while doing the least work possible."
Ann George of USA Hops followed up with a presentation on acreage expansion and acreage shift in hop varieties, reporting that hop farms are expanding with the brewing industry and putting strong efforts into quality and sustainably-produced hops.
As the grand finale of the second session, the attendees made a short trek to Perrault Farms for a field and facility tour, as well as a growers’ panel. From visiting experimental hop yards where the famous HBC-438 first sprouted to seeing the massive picking machine in action; from walking inside of the toasty hop kiln to watching their hop bales being hand-baled-- the brewers were able to see where their great beer truly begins. They finished off their visit with a growers’ panel, where they had the opportunity to ask Jeff and Jason Perrault of Perrault Farms and Reggie Brulotte of Brulotte Farms any questions they still had after their two-day adventure.
Our growers and the YCH HOPS staff work diligently to ensure that attendees have an in-depth, hands-on experience with the exhilarating harvest season. We and our growers enjoy opening up the fields and facilities to brewers, as we take pride in what we’ve accomplished and want them to see exactly what goes into their kettle. Aside from the efforts of our staff, it is the brewers’ curiosity, appetite for information and willingness to learn that drives the event to success.
It was a pleasure to host all of the brewers last week and we appreciate the wealth of feedback, questions and enthusiasm they brought with them. What better way to connect our family farms with brewers than by celebrating all things hops, beer and harvest together.