Like a lot of people nowadays I started asking the question a while ago as a homebrewer - where do my hops come from? Does place, provenance, pride and processing have an impact on the quality of the hops I brew with and how can we get closer to the grower and understand more about their hops? Walking the road to finding the best hops we came across a family of 5th generation hop growers in Woodburn, Oregon, Crosby Hops
who have been growing, picking, kilning, baling, pelletising and cold storing hops for some of the world's finest craft brewers and figured that might be a great place to start talking and learning more about hops!
Long ago with a keen interest and passion for craft beer, brewing, and more importantly what goes into brewing amazing beer we stumbled across Doug & Gabi Michael @GladfieldMalt
and were blown away by the passion they put into growing the finest malting barley, in Canterbury, NZ then malting it with the utmost care and attention to detail. They make sure they malt their barley in a way that perfectly suits the craftbrewer and homebrewer who is looking to make a more flavourful beer! After all craft brewers and homebrewers have very different needs from the macro-brewers who brew with a myriad of brewing tools, adjuncts and brewing aids at their disposal, to a tightly controlled raw materials brewing budget and brew for a flavour that appeals to the mass as opposed to delights the niche! We have found the exact same care and attention in the parallel world of hops in Woodburn, Oregon with the Crosby family.
We will not bore you here with all the intimate details of the annual #HopHarvest, although fair to say we do find this fascinating stuff! To keep this blog short we invite you to watch a short series of clips shot by 4th generation grower and processor of Crosby craft hops for us - Brian Crosby - during a very busy time of the year for the Crosby family - Hop Harvest 2015! While the bines in Australia just start to pop their heads out of the ground, the bines are being cut, picked, kilned, baled and pelletised and into cold storage across the Pacific Ocean, in the United States. Here is a series of clips that you can follow the harvest from bine to bag.
Crosby Hop Farm Harvest 2015 - Top cutter - BeerCoAU - Episode 1
Crosby Hop Farm Harvest 2015 - Hop Picker - BeerCoAU - Episode 2
Crosby Hop Farm Harvest 2015 - Kiln - BeerCoAU - Episode 3
Crosby Hop Farm Harvest 2015 - Burners - BeerCoAU - Episode 4
Crosby Hop Farm Harvest 2015 - Baling the Cones - BeerCoAU - Episode 5
Crosby Hop Farm Harvest 2015 - Pelletiser - BeerCoAU - Episode 6
Crosby Hop Farm Harvest 2015 – Cold Storage - BeerCoAU - Episode 7
With quality hop growers and processors like the Crosby family taking that much care and attention to grow, pick, kiln, bale, pelletise and store the best quality craft hops it is equally important we treat their product with the same care and respect from their farmgate to your brewery door, local home brew shop or your very own home brewery. We take our position in the supply chain very seriously indeed and for good reason and we want to reassure you we will never hide where our hops come from. Look on the label and you will see the crop year, the lot #, the alpha acids and we have brewers value certificates of analysis for every batch we buy and bring to you.
Ask more questions like we do when you buy your hops! It is not enough to say they are from a country - hops vary from state to state, farm to farm, just ask Brian or Blake Crosby and they can tell you all about it. But even better put their hops to the test in your brewhouse. Jump online buy a sample and try them for yourself at BeerCo Shop
Before you brew with those pellets do a quick 5 step check on their quality and remember our mantra - Quality into your brewhouse = Quality out of your brewhouse!
1. Warm sample to room temperature
This will allow aroma to be released. If your sample is too cold, the aroma is locked in, just like in a beer!
2. Examine appearance.
The pellets should be green in colour, but will vary depending on the hop variety. Dark olive and brown pellets indicate the possibility of oxidation. Keep in mind that the incoming hop colour will affect the colour of the pellet. A glassy appearance is a sign of excess heat during processing.
3. Finger smash
Rub the pellet between your fingers; with a little effort the pellet should be able to be broken down with your fingers.
4. Evaluate the aroma
The pellet should have a fresh hop aroma. Check for cheesy aromas and other signs of oxidation. Evaluate with a hop tea if you like doing hop teas (more coming on that in a future blog...).
5. Check where the hops came from and their brewing values
Where are the hops from? How were they stored? What condition did they arrive in at your brewery? What are their brewing values? % Alpha and Beta Acids, HSI, Lot #s.
After evaluating your hops if you feel they are not up to scratch - DO NOT USE THEM! You are about to labour in your brewhouse for hours and try to brew the best beer possible. You can not brew a good beer with bad brewing materials and no amount of modern technology or brewers skills can make up for poor quality brewing materials.
Brew Hoppy! & Happy :-)
PS The Crosby Family must know a thing or two about growing and processing great craft hops as these blokes turned up to inspect the brewers cuts and steal away a pile of their fresh 2015 Hop Harvest and they know a thing or two about great craft hops too! I just hope Brian & Blake have saved some for us craft and homebrewers downunder :-)
If you are an Australian craft brewery or home brew shop and have an interest to join our 2015 Crosby Hop Harvest pre-order please register your interest with us by emailing us your details at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will be in touch later in the month to collate your orders of fresh Crosby Hops from Farm to your brewery / shop! cheers