Monday, August 9, 2010

Indie Hops’ Open House: A Celebration to Usher in the 2010 Harvest

HUBBARD, OR. In the heart of Oregon’s hop country, Indie Hops unveiled its clean, green pellet mill to over 100 craft brewers, hop farmers, OSU and WSU ag scientists and even a few of our competitors last Friday. After plying our guests with BBQ and beers, we cranked up the space age mill and it didn’t blow.

It did, however, to the delight of all, convert a bale of Cascade hops into big, fat, oily Type 90 pellets. As one brewer commented, “They kept crowing about their pellet die temp being under 110F and they delivered. We gunned their pellets at 106F.”

Special guest Congressman Peter DeFazio (D-Or), himself an avid home brewer, delivered a rousing speech to the faithful in which he lauded craft brewing as “a bright spot in an otherwise gloomy economy.” Rep. DeFazio made no bones about it: he’s proud to help nurture a growing industry that generates thousands of jobs at a time when the largest brewer in the US is foreign-owned (InBev/Bud).

It’s well known that Oregonians tend to support their own. Almost 40% of the beer brewed in Oregon is consumed within the state – a testament to brand loyalty as well as customer sophistication. And small in-state breweries own about 11% of the market share in Oregon, the highest in the US.

As Jim noted in his opening remarks to the faithful, "Oregon has it all. We’ve got the soil, water and climate. We’ve got some of the best brewers, the best hop farmers, and the smartest hop scientists in the world. And now Oregon has its own hop processor and we pledge to rise to the same standard of excellence that you have set."

Of course, even the best aroma hops terroir has it’s hiccups. This season was a wet one in the Willamette Valley. The rainy Spring finally did surrender to the sunny skies of Summer, but only recently. (By the way, aroma hops thrive in cooler weather). Insect pressure has been light. Mildew was a potential threat but it stayed manageable. Aphids never posed a serious threat and, thanks to cooler temperatures, the spider mites were kept at bay. The cooler summer has allowed our beloved cones to achieve their iconic plumpness.

The scuttlebutt among the Oregon farmers is that, thanks to the surge in sunshine, we should have a decent – but not banner --harvest, although for certain cultivars it might be delayed about a week. The following is a snapshot of the anticipated harvest for select varieties:

US Tettanger -- August 16-18th
Centennials -- August 18-20th
Willamettes -- August 23ish
Sterling -- September 3-6.
Cascade -- September 6-8th.
Mt. Hood -- 1st week September

As the venerable Val Peacock, Ph.D, recently advised in The New Brewer (July/Aug 2010), brewers are advised to visit the farms from which they purchase their hops. We agree – and we’ll add to that sage advice our own admonition that you ought to get to know your pellet millers and walk their shop. At Indie Hops, we’d be happy to arrange for you to visit the Goschie and Coleman hopyards.

Check for yourself the quality of the hops, the cleanliness of the farms and machinery, the timing of the harvest, the status of any mildew or pest problems, and the operation of the drying rooms. After a tour of the hopyards, we’d be pleased to escort you over to our nearby plant and perhaps run a few bales for you. We’ll provide the earplugs, but even though we tend to get carried away with our pellet design and quality, we’ll ask in advance that you not insert them until we flip the switch.

Thanks to everybody for joining us in the celebration of Oregon’s first pellet mill. We’re very pleased to join the craft beer revolution and we appreciate your support and feedback. Special thanks to Bridgeport, Lucky Labrador and Full Sail for bringing the beer.

Roger Worthington

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