Hop nerds like hop brownies, that’s who! We also like hop fields, hop farmers and hoppy beers, of course. So getting paid to spend a week visiting the hop farms in Oregon feels kind of like jumping over the rainbow with a leprechaun and finding glittered unicorns on the other side. Is this really happening? Or have I had one too many brownies???
For those of you who don’t know, the Pacific Northwest grows almost all U.S. hops because these 18-foot high perennial vines adore the long summer days found in higher latitudes. Washington, Oregon and Idaho are hop mecca for you Americans. But other states (like our beloved Colorado!) are valiantly working to build a hop industry and we’re definitely cheering them on. Well, this time was Oregon’s turn to get some love from Craft Brewers so we piled into a couple of big vans and Larry (from Deschutes) and Vinnie & Natalie (of Russian River) drove us along Oregon’s hop highway, with only an occasional “detour” to pick up some cherries or drive half-way back to Portland because we missed our exit!
Over a year ago a group of Craft Brewers came together and formed the Hop Quality Group. We hired one of the smartest (and best looking!) hop experts in the country, Val Peacock, and started our own journey towards hop connoisseurship. Val introduced us to the small family farmers (whom we found to be kindred souls to Craft Brewers) and taught us a thing or ten about the delicate life of hops before they end up in our beers.
The passion these multi-generation hop farmers work with makes me excited to know them and intrigued by what the future holds for this Oregon land. By visiting the farms, it’s easy to see how much the hop growers love their land and the aromatic crops that come from it. Most farmers are exploring innovative approaches to better honor nature in their farming practices. They are working with USDA’s Natural Resource Conservation Services to learn about integrated pest management so they can plant cover crops that attract beneficial insects rather than using more pesticide, and several are becoming certified by Salmon Safe (in NBB’s humble opinion, a pretty legit certification that helps improve the habitat of many plants and animals – including humans!). You can even find a few organic hop fields out there.
At the end of these fun-filled, hop-filled days, our jovial group of Craft Brewers celebrated with our farmer friends (some new, some old) over a delicious salmon lunch and one of the most dreamy and abundant beer selections on this Earth. Hop farmer, Gayle Goschie, even tried out her latest hop brownies on us!
Our souls (and our beer bellies) are filled to the brim and we’re pretty dang excited about picking out hops for our next brews, knowing they come from such loving hands and beautiful land.
Checkout the entire photo gallery of our trip!