If there’s a common thread that ties together all of our beers, it’s aroma. Our beers are—for the most part—at the more sessionable end of the American craft beer spectrum, so giving them a big, impressive aroma is important to keeping them exciting. For that reason, we like to think of ourselves as aroma-driven brewers.
So this being an aroma-centric place, we spend a lot of time & money on hops. And these past few weeks have been filled to the gills with hops.
I (Jacob, the guy who owns the place) just returned from my first trip to Yakima, where I selected which hop lots we’d be receiving this coming year, a cool experience in and of itself. But while I was in town, I got to check out a hop farm and processing facility, which totally blew my frickin’ mind.
Driving into Yakima during the harvest is a crazy experience. Hop vines are being harvested around the clock and thrown into open bed trucks to be carried to the processing facility. The result is that the roads are literally paved with shattered hop cones and the air is filled with the smell of fresh hops for miles around. Just rolling down my windows made me giddier than that time I got four of my teeth pulled out with the help of happy gas.
Visiting the processing facility was a Wonka-esque experience. Hop vines are chopped down at the base, which means there is 20ft of vine and leaf that needs to be separated from the cones. A series of whirring conveyer belts and machines handle that task, after which the hops are slowly poured into giant 28-inch deep beds and dried with hot air from propane burners. After that, the hops are sent to a hydraulic press that turns them into 200lb compressed bricks called bales. Those bales are either sold as is, broken up into smaller bales, or turned into pellets at a hammer mill. Here’s 30 seconds of what that all looks like:
Watching all of that happen was mind-blowing, in part because it smelled so fucking good. For a hop geek and aroma-obsessive, being in a hurricane of super fresh hops is an experience bordering on the orgasmic.
Speaking of orgasmic hop experiences, we’re in the process of brewing our very first wet hop beer. Because different hop varieties are harvested at different times, making a wet hop beer with anything other than a single hop variety requires some finesse. In our case, we’re actually making two beers and working with three different hop varieties: a wet hop beer with Simcoe and a wet hop beer with Chinook. Those two beers will be combined and “dry hopped” with wet Mosaic hops. The result will be a 6.8% ABV IPA we’re calling Orderville. We expect it to be ready by mid-October.
Another key bit of hop news: Modern Times is officially the only brewery in the entire U.S. of A. to have whole cone Nelson Sauvin hops from New Zealand. I started working on this over a year ago, and it was no small effort. But I’m a big believer in the power of the hopback, so I really wanted to be able to use whole leaf Nelson for Blazing World. The very first batch of Blazing World to use these whole leaf Nelsons will be heading into cans, which is extra cool.