Field Guide to Hops - Yakima Valley Hop Country

Learn More About Hops with Our Field Guide

The Yakima Valley is one of the most important hop growing regions in the world, so click through our Field Guide to get a better understanding of how hops are grown, harvested, and processed for brewing!

Swipe the slides below to view the Field Guide

  • SO WHAT IS A HOP?

    Humulus Lupulus (hops) are the flowering cones of a perennial climbing vine (called bines) that is primarily used in the beer brewing process. Hops give unique flavor and aroma in beer, and bring balance to the sweetness of malts.

  • WHY ARE SO MANY HOPS GROWN IN THE YAKIMA VALLEY?

    The Yakima Valley has the ideal combination of the right climate, day length, soil and access to irrigation systems for hop growing, which is why more than 75% of our nation's hops are grown here.

  • WHAT PART OF THE HOP IS DESIRABLE TO BREWERS?

    The female hop cone, which forms on the bine in late summer, contains various oils and alpha acids that are essential for the flavor and aroma in beer, especially the hop-forward beers such as IPA's.

  • WHEN ARE HOPS HARVESTED?

    Around the Yakima Valley, the annual hop harvest generally starts around the end of August and runs through September. Most picking facilities run 24 hours-a-day, 7 days-a-week, for nearly 30 days.

  • DO HOPS HAVE TO BE REPLANTED EACH SEASON?

    No, hops are a perennial climbing vine that remains dormant underground throughout the fall and winter. The plant begins to grow from the ground each spring as the weather warms.

  • ARE HOP CONES HANDPICKED FROM EACH HOP BINE?

    Not anymore! The hop bines are first cut close to the ground by a tractor called a bottom cutter. Then a hop truck is pushed though the row by a tractor called a top cutter, which cuts the top of the bine from the trellis. The harvested bine is transported back to the picking machine in the back of the hop truck.

  • SO NOW THE BINE IS IN THE BACK OF A TRUCK. THEN WHAT?

    Each bine is hand-loaded (upside down) into the picking machine. Many of the local picking machines have been in operation for nearly 70 years!

  • WHAT HAPPENS IN THE PICKING MACHINE?

    After the plant material is stripped from the bine, a series of belts and sorting mechanisms separate the hop cones from the other plant material. A conveyor belt then transports the cones from the picking machine over to the kiln.

  • A KILN, YOU MEAN LIKE AN OVEN?

    Yes. At harvest time, hops contain roughly 75% moisture. If stored with that amount of moisture throughout the year, they would spoil. Hops are dried in a hop kiln to an ideal moisture content of about 9-10%, allowing them to be stored and used in brewing throughout the year.

  • HOW ARE HOPS PACKAGED WHEN THEY LEAVE THE FARM?

    After the hops are dry and cool, they are compressed into 200 pound bales and wrapped in burlap. Truckloads of bales are delivered to warehouses at hop processing companies around the Yakima Valley, where they will be packed into smaller bales of raw hops, or processed into pellet and extract form. Once the hops have been processed and repackaged, they are shipped to breweries all around the world, ready to be made into beer!

  • A SPECIAL THANKS TO BALE BREAKER BREWING FOR THE PHOTOS AND INFORMATION.




Information and photos for the Field Guide to Hops is courtesy of Bale Breaker Brewing Company



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