Snapshot: Hop Harvest

Sit back, scroll and enjoy these photos from my day hanging out during hop harvest at Karridale Hop Farm a few weeks ago.

Hanging out at Karridale Hop Farm for Hop Harvest

17 February 2018

I doubt I will ever get tired of looking at fresh hop cones, it’s a wonderful assault on your senses because they look fantastic, smell amazing and they even feel great. Sadly technology doesn’t allow you to smell and touch hops here but I can definitely show you lots and lots of hops. Sit back, scroll and enjoy these photos from my day hanging out during hop harvest at Karridale Hop Farm a few weeks ago.

You can read the full article I wrote about the day, including plans for the future of the hop farm, at Crafty Pint – A Day in the Life of: A Hop Farmer

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Welcome to Karridate Cottages and Hop Farm
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Trey, one half of Karridale Hop Farm, inspecting the bines
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Trey cutting the bottom of the bines, just under where the cones start to grow. A cheeky photobomb by my dog Barley in there too!
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Trey with a Cascade hop cone, analysis of his Cascade has come back with an Alpha Acid (the stuff that makes beer bitter) reading of 11.5%, huge for a variety that is normally 5-7%
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Trey cuts the hop bines at the top and then passes them to be loaded onto the ute
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More and more hop bines
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Ready to go!

 

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But first, Trey does a little quality control
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Ken helps unload the bines, Ken comes by to lend a hand, quite fitting since he actually built the original cottages on the property
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Time to get the cones off the bine
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Slowly, slowly
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Fresh wet hops that, in this state, have about a 70% water content
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So many hops!
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Time to get them into a tray, the wire bottom allows air flow. Trey writes the variety on the front.
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Loading up the hops
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It’s very much a team effort!
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Quality control

 

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Mould is the biggest concern so you want an even layer of cones to ensure even drying
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Up Close: Pemberton ‘Wild Blend’, the variety is their own and grew in Pemberton until the mid to late 70s. Trey went looking for the plant, found some growing wild and brought it back to Karridale.
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Up Close: Perle
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Fuggles, named after the English noble hop variety
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Up Close: Pemberton Wild Blend from the tip of the cone
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Barley keeping an eye on things
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Up Close: Inside a hop cone, the golden coloured stuff is called lupulin which is where the acids, oils and resins are, basically all the good stuff brewers want
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Trays at loaded into the cabinet to dry
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Heaters are the bottom, extractor fans at the top, pulling hot air through the whole cabinet.
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As each tray gets filled, each tray is rotated in the cabinet for even drying. The hops in each tray are also shuffled around. These cones will dry overnight, ready for a brewer to use soon!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beer Interpretation #4: Dry Hopping

Alright, so this “dry hopping” thing, why do beer lovers get so excited about it?

Beer Interpretation is an irregular series of posts where I try to decipher the sometimes strange and always wonderful world of beer jargon, phrases and catch cries by drilling into the basics and interpreting the lingo. Basically I’m going to try and translate the nerdy beer stuff.


DRY HOPPING

Alright, so this “dry hopping” thing, why do beer lovers get so excited about it?

Hops themselves are exciting, they’re gorgeous to look at, wonderful to smell and they bring so much to beer – bitterness, flavour and aroma. That’s quite the significiant contribution!

Check out – Beer Interpretation #1: Hoppy

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Hops, being the magical beasts that they are, get added at various stages of the brewing process and dry hopping is just another way for brewers to use hops.

Dry hopping happens after fermentation, so when the yeast has made bubbles and booze, and it’s done to give the beer a nice big hop aroma. The best examples to see dry hopping in action are beers like pale ales and their extended family, i.e. IPAs, double IPAs, etc, where a full hoppy nose is more than welcome, in fact it’s compulsory!

When hops are added early in the boil it results in the alpha acids in the hops becoming isomerized, which means the alpha acids undergo a chemical change, which results in bitterness. At the other end, after fermentation, dry hopping sees the hops treated a little more kindly. Whilst the temperature will still be warm, it won’t be anywhere near the high temperatures needed for the boil so the hops just hang out for a while, maybe a week, maybe more or less, allowing the intact essential oils from the hops to dissolve into the beer and BOOM, hello wonderful hop aroma.

Karridale Hop Farm

I get super excited when I stick my nose in a beer and like what I smell, it’s like a prelude for the palate and we all know how significantly taste is impacted by smell. That’s why you’re always hearing beer geeks bang on about glassware, your beer doesn’t want to be caged up inside a bottle, release your beer and all it’s wonders!

The problem with hop aroma is that it starts to fade, pretty much straight away and after a couple of months the aroma faded or changed alot, either way, not what you want. This takes us back to my previous post in this series, “Beer Interpretation #2: Fresh is Best”. Think of it like a fresh mango, when it’s ready to eat you want to grab that sucker and enjoy it, delaying just makes for a sad mango and nobody wants that.

More Reading: A Perfect Pint – Beer School: Hops

Go Buy Some Beer …

Your best bet for big dry hopping is going to be fresh pale ales and IPAs, much like my list for the first post in this series, so grab WA local beers like Feral Hop Hop, Nail Golden Ale*, Eagle Bay Pale Ale, Mash Copy Cat (and also Grasscutter, I had one today and forgot how good it smells!) to taste and smell what dry hopping can do for a beer.

Looking outside of WA, there’s plenty of great options, for instance pick up Mornington IPA (Victoria), Epic Hop Zombie (NZ) or pretty much anything Pirate Life (Adelaide).

*disclaimer: I still work for Nail Brewing

 

 

Beer Interpretation #2: Fresh is Best

A few weeks ago I kicked off a new series of posts I am calling Beer Interpretation, the idea being to decipher the weird and wonderful world of craft beer jargon. The first post was on the term “hoppy”, which you can read here and given hops is such a HUGE topic in craft beer this seemed like the logical second post in this series …

“FRESH IS BEST”

Beer geeks can switch from conversations around the importance of fresh beer to then discussing beer cellaring techniques in the blink of an eye.

“Fresh is best” and similar phrases are often linked to craft beers with a lot of hop* character in them, it’s basically just short hand for “this beer is full of hops, drink it NOW, don’t wait”.

*Check out Beer Interpretation #1: Hoppy for more information and links to other hop related article

Whilst encouraging people to drink beer as soon as they get their hands on it might see a little irresponsible it actually isn’t. It is about making sure that the beer you are drinking is in the best possible condition.

The reason for this is that hops are pretty delicate, after all what do you expect from a plant that only grows in very specific parts of the world – namely between 35-55 degrees latitude in the southern and northern hemispheres. To top it all off the hop flowers can only be harvested once a year in each hemisphere. Once harvested the essential oils and alpha acids in the hops, the things that make them so wonderful and useful to beer, begin to deteriorate. It shouldn’t be too surprising really, I mean, can you run as fast as you could ten years ago? I didn’t think so. Age matters.

To combat this, to ensure that hops can be used to brew beer all year around and all over the world, hops are dried and made into pellets like little concentrated pills of awesome, then vacuum packed and cold stored to preserve them. It’s little wonder that hops are not a cheap ingredient in the brewing process. But they are oh-so-worth it.

Anyway, back to the subject of freshness.

The affect that hops have on a beer, namely contributing bitterness and flavour, are also subject to the ageing process regardless of whether the brewers used hop flowers straight from harvest or hop pellets stored in peak conditions.

As hop flavour deteriorates in a beer you stop getting all the lovely flavours and aromas that the brewer intended and instead get unpleasant characteristics like cheesy, sweaty and musty. That’s bad.

So when you’re grabbing a beer where hop flavour and aroma is important, like pale ales, IPAs, golden ales and such, drink them fresh and enjoy them a lot! As Feral Brewing says, “treat like milk”.


GO BUY SOME BEER

Any of the beers I recommended in the previous edition, if they are super fresh, are going to be great.

Add to the list Stone Brewery Enjoy By IPA, an IPA from the US that specifies a very short date range to drink this beer before. There’s even a timer on the website, counting down the hours and minutes of this beer’s peak life.


MORE READING

Draft Magazine | Off Flavours

Beer Sensory Science | Hop Flavor

Serious Eats | How to Buy Fresh beer and Why it Matters

BeerSmith Home Brewing Blog | Brewing Hops Storage: Preserving Precious Hops

Beer Interpretation #1: Hoppy

So in the first of what I hope will be a continuing series of posts, though I make no promises on regularity of said posts, I am going to get into some beer jargon and try to drill down to the basics and interpret the lingo. First up: “HOPPY”

Hops are just one part of the craft beer world that beer nerds, and I include myself in this, tend to get a little crazy about. If you find yourself enjoying craft beer you inevitably find yourself drinking lots of beers and participating in conversations that involve sentences like: “I hear the brewer used five different hops and then did a 30 minute late hop addition before dry hopping with Australian Galaxy.”

If you’re tipping your toe in the craft beer world hearing something like this might make you screw up your face as you try to decipher the weird craft beer jargon.

So in the first of what I hope will be a continuing series of posts, though I make no promises on regularity of said posts, I am going to get into some beer jargon and try to drill down to the basics and interpret the lingo. First up …

“HOPPY”

This is a tricky one because “hoppy” as a descriptor for beer does not actually give you a really good idea of what the beer is going to taste like. When you think about it that’s a pretty bad descriptor given the whole reason for a descriptor is to describe the damn thing. Saying a beer is “hoppy” is kind of like saying a meal is “spicy”, I don’t know about you but there are about two dozen spices in our kitchen pantry and they are all different. Same goes for hops.

There are lots of hop varieties with a wide range of characteristics and the brewer adds hops at different stages of the brewing process which also affects what the hops will do the beer.

But I’m getting a bit ahead of myself. Let’s go back a little.

WHAT THE HECK ARE HOPS?

Besides being the thing I do when I sprain my ankle in really lame ways (crossing the road, jumping a small fence, both real life examples) here are five things about hops …

  1. It’s a plant, a climbing one in fact.
  2. The plant produces “cones”, sometimes called “flowers”, and these are the useful bits.
  3. They only grow in very specific climates, fussy little things.
  4. They are used for bitterness, aroma and flavour in beer; in short they are wonderful.
  5. Hops are also a bit delicate, whilst they can be the dominant flavour of a beer, over time it will fade so the fresher you drink a “hoppy” beer, the better.

Oh and bonus fact – it’s related to marijuana, this isn’t a vital fact but people do seem to find this interesting. “If you smoke it you’ll get a lung infection,” a brewer I used to work with would caution those who were really interested in this fact.

Hops at Cowaramup Brewing in 2013 Hops at Cowaramup Brewing in 2013

HOW ARE THEY USED IN BEER?

Lots. That’s the one word answer but that feels like a bit of a cop out so I’ll ramble on a little more.

Basically hops are added at a various stages of brewing. Without going into the brewing process itself and keeping things simple, hops added early will result in bitterness whilst hops added late will contribute to the aroma. Of course, like everything in the brewing process, timing is critical and so it’s not a case of being able to add hops early and leave them for hours on end to get more and more bitterness, too long and things will go very bad unless you like horrible tasting, poorly made beer.

So when someone says a beer is “hoppy”, take this to mean that the brewer has used a lot of hops to make the beer and/or the flavour of the beer is dominated by flavours that the hops have provided.

AND WHAT ARE THOSE FLAVOURS?

Like the spices in your pantry, hops come in lots of different types and all have their own characteristics. Here are some descriptions of hop flavour – floral, earthy, herbal, citrus, pine, resin, grassy, spicy, tropical fruit, lychee, woody, passionfruit, minty, passionfruit, the list is extensive. Flavours tend to be grouped together depending on what region the hops are from, for instance American grown hops tend to be tropical fruit, citrus and pine driven whilst the floral, grassy and earthy tend to be English.

More Reading: Serious Eats | A Beginner’s Guide to Hops of the World

More Reading: BeerAdvocate | Hop Guide (for a list of hop varieties and descriptions)

“Hoppy” is not only a vague descriptor but it’s also a subjective one, your interpretation of “hoppy” is likely to differ from another person. No one is wrong. Also, your idea of what is hoppy can change over time. Remember how big the flavour were when you first tried olives or coffee? Lots of olives and hundreds of coffees later, I bet you don’t rate the intensity of flavour the same.

GO BUY SOME BEER

For that American hop hit …

Feral Brewing (WA) | Hop Hog

Mash Brewing (WA) | Copy Cat

Bootleg Brewing (WA) | Speakeasy IPA

Pirate Life (SA) | Pale Ale

Feral Hop Hog

For that Australian hop hit …

Young Henry’s (NSW) | Newtowner

Northbridge Brewing (WA) | Beerland Pale Ale

For that New Zealand hop hit …

Cheeky Monkey (WA) | Hatseller Kiwi Pilsner

Garage Project (NZ) | Hapi Daze

More Reading: Beer Geek | Kiwi Hops: A Whole New World


More Reading …

Food Republic | Beer Geekery: 13 Things You Probably Never Knew About Hops

Huffington Post | What The Hell Are Hops, Anyway?

Craft Beer | The Secret Life of Hops


To end, I have to say that this post got away from me. I thought it would be quick and now I am slapping myself for being so foolish. Hops is a MASSIVE topic, I can only hope to have brushed the top of this amazing plant and what it does to beer. This has been a super fun post to write, I am looking forward to doing more of these. If there’s a beery word or subject that you’d like me to explore please let me know by commenting below! I’ll do my best to learn with you all too!