"Go West, young man, go West." They say if you want a job done well, you’ve got to do it yourself. When it comes to selecting hops, the little green cones with the one-two punch of flavor and aroma, getting that job done right is essential to brewing our signature beers. To smell, touch, taste, and see the year’s crop of hops is why Indeed co-founders Tom Whisenand and Nathan Berndt, and head brewer Josh Bischoff, traveled to Washington state for this year’s lush, fragrant, colorful hop harvest.
Washington’s Yakima Valley is the epicenter of hop growing and processing, thanks to its ideal climate and long, well-established production history; they boast by far the largest percentage of hops grown in the United States. If it’s such a well-oiled machine, why bother making the trip before placing your order? As Director of Operations Tom Whisenand explains, “Like any agricultural product, the quality and characteristics of hop crops will vary from field to field, grower to grower, this side of the river to that side of the river. Selecting in person ensures that we get the hops that best match what we are looking for in each variety.” And this in turn ensures that the Day Tripper you sip today will taste like the Day Tripper you drink a year from now.
Another highly anticipated, highly unpredictable, but wholly worth-it part of the hop harvest is the opportunity to send back unprocessed hops to be brewed into very small batches of fresh hop beer. New to fresh hop beer? Head brewer Josh Bischoff's got you covered with a quick primer: "[Fresh hop] is a beer made with hops fresh off the vine that have not been dried or processed. Even with great care in processing hops you do lose some oils and character of the non-processed hop. Part of what makes fresh hop beers special is you only have a small window to use the hops once they are harvested, ideally within hours, and [the hops] are only harvested once a year over the course of a few weeks." If this all sounds risky and high-stakes, it is, but the final product warrants the extra effort!
This year's fresh hop beer went off with nearly nary a hitch, and we're lucky to be tapping into the Mosaic Fresh Hop this evening in the taproom, and at both Red Cow locations in Minneapolis and St. Paul! But things don't always go so smoothly: there's an extreme time crunch from the moment the hops are harvested, then trucked on a dedicated refrigerated truck, and finally received miles away at the brewery before they're brewed into beer.
As Tom puts it, "A fresh hop beer is a logistical nightmare but what is delivered in the final product is something extremely special." Run, don't walk, to the nearest source; once this year's batch is gone, it'll be a long wait for another taste. This is as fresh, fragrant, and fleeting as it gets, so get your hands on some today.