Barthhaas Hop selection 2022
This year we were invited by one of our main hop suppliers, Barthhaas, to Washington state to help in their hop selection process.
Hop selection is always a really exciting time of the year, breweries from around the world travel to Washington state to rub, sniff and analyse hop farms lots in order to choose the best quality hops to use in their beers.
Travelling through Washington State, visiting the famous waterfall from Twin Peaks, Seb ventured up into the mountains of the Pacific NorthWest, through the mountains of Cascade (yep, the hop is named after these very mountains) and eventually back down into the desert landscape of Yakima Valley.
Alongside Pomona Island, Garden Brewery, Malt Miller, Suarez Family Brewery, Eremitage Brasserie, Deya and Elusive,Seb was helping select Citra, Mosaic, Azacca, Bru-1, Columbus, Centennial and Cascade hops.
The process is spread over 3 days, selecting 200 tons of hops from 30 different lots, whittling them down to 12 lots that will be then blended together into batches which will then eventually be used in breweries across the UK and Europe. It took a long time, there was a lot of rubbing down hops, sniffing all those delicious oils and tough decisions to be made, but eventually the hops were all selected.
This was our first time taking part in hop selection so it’s going to be really exciting and insightful when these hops arrive in our brewery and experience first hand the impact they have in our beer and the difference that they’ll impart in comparison to previous batches of the same hops.
Once the selection process was completed, Seb and the other brewers travelled through Washington State visiting growers and farms and seeing their processing plants. It was incredible to see the love, passion and care that goes into growing and breeding hop varieties. Each farm has its own hop development programmes, breeding and growing new hop varieties. Roys Farms inc was set in a beautiful landscape and has been growing hops since 1907. American Dwarf Hop Association and Home Farms both had some really exciting new varieties in the pipeline. We were so grateful to be given the opportunity to try out these new varieties and cannot wait to see them eventually land on UK and EU shores. ADHA 218 was pungent and unique with fresh lime, banana and bubblegum aroma, HBC1019 is the latest variety to come from Yakima Chiefs and Barthaas collaborative breeding programme. It’s the next development in the chain from Sabro and Talus hops and has a real full bodied aroma and beaming with fruit cocktail aromas; its intensely tropical and we really can’t wait to get hold of some of these hops and get them into a deliciously soft IPA.
Seb met Alejandro. Alejandro was a member of the hop breeding team and was working on distilling hop oils, manipulating them into oils that represent specific fruit flavours. Almost dissecting the oils and concentrating their separate components. There was a lot of mind bending science going on but it’s really exciting to get an insight into Alejandro’s project and imagine being able to choose specific flavours to be added to be beers that are 100% natural and completely derived from hops.
Once the farm tour was over Seb visited a few of the many breweries located in Yakima Valley. Holy Mountain were one of the first and were pouring an incredible Fresh Hop IPA made with Strata hops. Georgetown Brewery knew their way to North’s heart with a Tequila Barrel Aged Gose that was absolutely delicious. It was awesome to visit Single Hill Brewery who are lucky enough to be able to make their own fresh hop pellets to use in their beers. Other great breweries with really great beers were Varietal and Bail Breaker.
It’s exciting to be tasting beers from US breweries; the New England IPA is a style originated from the USA, so it’s great to be trying the style in the USA, their take on the style and see what new qualities are able to be unlocked in IPA and how we can push the style further ourselves.
It wasn’t all fancy farms and craft beer, a trip to the US wouldn’t be a trip to the US if there weren’t big cans of cheap lager and dive bars. There was a rendezvous of a few of the brewery groups and karaoke. The exact details are a little foggy but it sounds like a lot of fun…
There was one last important stop once the hop selection and partying was over. Seb swung by Seattle visiting Stillwater’s Brian Strumke and his new brewing facility at Talking Cedar. It’s so so good to see Brian get his feet on the ground and get cracking on his own brewery. He’s already got a lot of really exciting beers in tanks and foeders and they were all tasting fantastic. We’ve been talking and throwing around some ideas and maybe… we might be seeing some of our beer pop up across the pond one the West Coast of America. A very exciting prospect, but our lips are tightly sealed for now.
From Seb and everyone at North Brewing Co, we’d like to thank everyone we met and Barthaas for their incredible care and hospitality, we cannot wait to taste the fruits of the labour that we all put in together!