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Hops and Brew School Overview and Tour PDF Print E-mail
Learn - Intermediate Homebrewing
Written by Mark Emiley   
Monday, 08 September 2008 20:24

Hop Union recently held its 5th annual Hops and Brew School at their facility in Yakima, Washington.  This event draws in brewers from all over the country for two 2-day sessions of hops and brewing seminars as well as tours of hops fields and processing facilities.  I attended the conference on behalf of the Boeing Employees Wine and Beer Makers Club.  Over the course of the school, I compiled notes on the lectures and tours and will be consolidating them down to focus on information useful at a homebrewing level.  There will be a basic level of understanding of hops and brewing assumed in the summaries.  Some pictures will be posted, but for all of my pictures, click here.


The class is held at the end of August right as the hop harvesting season is getting underway.  Early in the summer Hop Union sends out invitations to the conference.  The registration fee includes two days of seminars and tours, breakfast snacks, lunches, dinners, and plenty of beer.  It is a tremendous learning experience and a hell of a bargain for the price. 

Tours of Facilities

During the course of the class, students are taken on two main tours, the first being a tour around the Hop Union grounds and the second being a tour hop fields and harvesting processing facilities.

On the tour around the Hop Union facility, you get a chance to see Hop Union receiving hops from around the area (Oregon, Washington, and Idaho primarily). 


After the bundles of hops are taken off the trucks, they are arranged off in lines where they are checked for moisture, samples are taken, bundles are labeled, and they are deemed "ready" to move into cold storage. 


On the day that we were there, a relatively "wet" set of hops came in from Oregon.  These hops were a concern because they were more prone to spontaneous combustion than others.  Hence, they were "quarantined" off to a group in the warehouse. 


The warehouse fire that happened a while back happened right on that site.  Three bundles of hops were actually blown out through the roof and landed hundreds of yards away. 

One thing I kept in mind during this process was how as homebrewers we make every effort to keep our hops as cold as possible.  Looking at how long the hops had to have been on the trucks and then how long they were sitting outside, I'm a little less paranoid about leaving my hops in the car if I have to run another errand while out getting beer ingredients.  Sure, it is probably best not to get them worn, but after seeing everything else the hops have been through in the whole harvesting process, worse things have happened.


After seeing their in-processing of hops, we then toured around the warehouses looking copious amounts of hops.  It was mindblowing to realize that the hops that they would get in only represent ~1% of all of the hops in the country. 


We then toured through their lab where they conducted testing for all sorts of things like alpha acids, oils, humulone levels, etc.  We also got to see their "bar" which was a great place to hang out, have a beer, play some darts, shoot some pool, and smoke a cigar afterwards. 


We then looked through their palletizing machine.  It begins with an area to load in the bales where they get torn up.  They then go into the hammer mill where they are pulverized.  All of the bales get mixed together to help balance out variations in alpha acids.  The bits of hops are then forced into a pellet die where they become the "goat food" looking things that we are familiar with.  The pellets are then sent through a shaker and screens to get a nice consistent size before they are fed into bags, weighed out, and then vacuum sealed.  It was a huge piece of machinery all go get those hops down to a manageable size.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 10 September 2008 13:21
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