The Yakima Valley has made it through yet another hop harvest. Gone are the lush green walls of hops, stretching 18 feet in the air. In their place is a forest of bare hop poles, pieces of cut twine still dangling from the wires. Now our Valley’s hops take the next stage of their journey, where they’ll be preened, pressed, pounded and processed into dry hop pellets for brewing in the coming year, while a small amount of still wet, fresh-picked hops are packed off to breweries to make their one-of-a-kind Fresh Hop beers.
Even though it looks the same as it always does after a successful harvest season, it doesn’t tell the real story: that this was definitely not just another hop harvest.
Growers throughout the world struggled this year. Germany experienced their worst hop harvest in over a decade, down 27 percent from last year. Britain was below their average. New Zealand was short. And here at home, the Yakima Valley went through one of the most difficult growing seasons in recent memory. We faced three straight weeks of triple-digit temperatures. We had a non-existent snowpack, leaving our Valley strangled by drought. And we continue to have a stunted labor force, which extends harvest times, creating more work for less people.
But despite these challenges, our growers prevailed. The 2015 harvest is on par to outstrip last year’s bounty by a solid five percent. The overall yield of hops is actually down from last year, but there was more than 3,300 new acres of hops planted this year in Washington, which more than made up for the decline.
The resilience and tenacity of our farmers has done our Valley proud once again, and everyone from growers to brewers to beer-lovers can breathe a sigh of relief that this difficult harvest is successfully behind us.
So to our hardworking Yakima Valley hop farmers and laborers, we offer a sincere and heartfelt “Thank You” for all that you’ve done this year. If there’s ever anyone who has deserved a beer after a long day’s work, it’s you.