Drying Hops

Drying Hops
Blake checking kiln moisture

Monday, June 18, 2012

Post-MBAA Meeting and Farm Update

The Crosby Hop Farm blog can be henceforth declared as the revitalization of our ever-expanding social media! The metaphorical pistons and cylinders of our "stream of hopsciousness" are taking the community by storm! If you read this blog posting, please for the sake of chlorophyll, follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook. Allow us to answer questions about anything hop-related, whether it is growing advice, hop varieties and their characteristics, or the farm's activities. I will attempt to throw in some tidbits here and there about the current status of our hop plants at different points of the season, while providing some news about our exciting events and "field trips."

A few weekends ago, the Crosby Crew headed east to Hood River, OR, to attend the NorthWestern Spring Meeting of the MBAA (Master Brewer's Association of America). This two day meeting covered some very complex and enlightening discussions (and more importantly taste testing!). While the majority of these presentations were way above my head, I'm a firm believer that acquiring as much resourceful knowledge with as many aspects of the craft beer industry as possible is what helps make us a well rounded team. The MBAA meeting had some very comprehensive discussions and presentations concerning the past and present craft beer trends in the UK, sour beers aged with local cherries, differences between wine and beer yeast, and yeast propagation/fermentation management. Breweries like Deschutes and New Belgium allow their sour beers to ferment and age for at least a couple years before anyone can imbibe. While a lot of these biochemistry and microbiology presentations were probably lost in translation even with some of the audience, the MBAA offered informative lectures from well-established masterbrewers, academics, and yeast fermentation specialists.

The hops here on the farm have progressed to the next level of growth with the majority of plants reaching the full 18 feet of trellis wire. Once the hops have gotten to the top of the trellis, then the vines can focus on lateral growth and increased foliage density. This increase in growth can be attributed to our best late spring/early summer weather since 2009. Although it doesn't officially arrive until June 21st, we look forward to a sun-soaked summer with a bit of rain showers thrown in the mix. Right now, we're just completing our last application of nitrogen on all fields. Timely nitrogen applications throughout the growing season is critical for optimal yield of cones. In other news, we just finished planting ~3 more acres of Centennial to connect the new and older plots. We won't have to put up trellises for them until this fall.

Lastly, here's a special thanks to all the homebrewers and hop farmers out there who purchased our hop rhizomes. I hope all your rhizomes are taking off and looking healthy. Cheers!

-Beau E.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Spring Growing Season '12

The growing season here at the farm is in full swing! The sun is finally out in the Willamette Valley, the birds are infesting our farm buildings' nooks and crannies with their chirping nests, and most importantly the hops are taking off! In a matter of less than 8 weeks since the hop shoots broke ground after the initial crowing/pruning at the beginning of the season, the Nugget acreage around the main office is looking quite hearty with the top shoots reaching up to around 12-14 feet from the ground. All of the plants have been stripped of their bottom leaves (a.k.a. "trimming the fat") to prevent any kind of mildew or pest problems. Also, this prevents any unwanted vines weighing down the paper twine. A few years back, we even had a few 18' trellis poles fall down due to the added weight of wet vines and plenty of wind from a thunderstorm.

Some recent happenings outside of the farm for the Crosby Crew was our successful trade show booth #25 at the Craft Brewer's Conference in San Diego, CA, last month. It was the farm's first opportunity to exhibit ourselves to over 4,000 people that are in some shape or form related to the craft brewing industry. It was unreal to see how many side businesses there are showing off every "beer" product imaginable, like tap handles, kegs, yeast, neon lighting, bottle labelers, etc. At our booth, we had a 200 lb. bale of Nugget that had 1/4 of it that was sawed off and put on display for people to come up and smell a freshly-cut bale. It was fascinating to see how many people were drawn in by the natural effervescence and smell of a fresh bale because there was a ~15 foot aroma radius of fruity hops. Here's a pic of our booth...

In other farm news, we will be attending the NW Spring '12 MBAA (Master Brewer's Association of America) meeting up in Hood River, OR this upcoming Friday/Saturday of June 1/2. Should be a great opportunity to meet with some local brewers.

Anyways, here's a little vocabulary lesson for all you hop growing enthusiasts out there. Here are two hop terms that are used synonymously, yet incorrectly. "Hardy" vs "Hearty" -- "hardy", meaning strong and bold, more often describes peoples; while "hearty", on the other hand, means providing strong, abundant nourishment. Both terms are used to describe hop plants, yet in my opinion, "hearty" provides a better description of a plant is sown and reaped from the metaphorical "heart" of mother-earth.

"Bines" vs. "Vines"? Maybe next posting...

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Hop Harvest 2011 Re-Cap

Crosby hop harvest 2011 was somewhat delayed due to the cool, wet spring and cooler than average summer days that slowed plant growth and maturities on some varieties. We began picking Centennials August 24th and wrapped up our season with Nuggets on September 17th.  Ironically, despite the cool season we experienced a heat wave during the first week of September with consecutive 100 degree days. Though the heat was a shock to the system we were thankful for dry weather and no rain – the first rains hit about 3 days after we finished picking this year. It isn’t that hops can’t be harvested in the rain, it just makes already hard work that much harder.
        Overall from a production perspective, we were satisfied given the tough growing conditions 2011 presented. Most aroma varieties were average to slightly below, with our alpha hops surprisingly coming in somewhat above average despite the pre-harvest ‘eye-ball’ test that predicted otherwise. Cone densities were fair to good (that is the amount of hops it takes to produce a 200lb. compressed bale), and cone structure, integrity, color, etc. was good to very good for many Oregon varieties.  The real story of the year was the alpha acid percentages -- with some varieties 20 - 30% above industry averages. We attribute increased alpha to increased sunlight, which may seem ironic given the cool/wet season. However, the adverse growing conditions greatly reduced plant foliage which allowed more sunlight to penetrate the maturing hop cones late in the season.
      Fast forward to the present -- we have begun shipping this year’s whole leaf hop crop to brewers around the country. For pellet users, we expect to have most crop 2011 varieties processed, packaged, and ready to ship by December.  In the meantime, we still have a wide array of crop 2010 hop pellets available on the website to serve your brewing needs - keeping in mind, if stored properly most hop pellets will last at least 3 – 4 years.