Latest News Along the Spirits and Hops Trail

Bale Breaker beer cans and kegs ready for their frothy brew!

Bale Breaker Brewing production areaAs summer comes to an end, the fields and orchards are abuzz as the crops are brought in and processed. Harvest is a great time of year in the Yakima Valley along the trail.  Hops and other crops that make our ciders, spirits and wines are being picked and headed to production.

With the exceptionally warm and dry summer, many crops in the Yakima Valley are ahead of schedule. The wine grape harvest began in early August when Chardonnay grapes were picked for Treveri Cellars for their sparkling wines. Now other wine grapes are coming online and the crush is underway earlier than usual and for a longer period.

When it comes to expansion plans,  Bale Baker Brewing Company is mirroring the harvest this year: It’s coming sooner than expected. Last week the owners announced plans to add 16,200 square-feet of space to their existing 11,000 square-foot operation near Yakima. This will give them more space for larger fermentation tanks, a bigger canning line plus space for dry and cold storage. “We’re in the midst of planning out our expansion now, which kind of surprised us because we weren’t planning to fill out this facility for probably five to seven years,” co-owner Kevin Quinn told the Yakima Herald in a feature on the expansion. Congrats to the gang, all of us look forward to your continuing success.

Meanwhile, on the West end of the Yakima Valley region, Bron Yr Aur Brewing Company outside the town of Naches is barreling along to a September opening (we hope!) Follow their progress via their Facebook page. In the meantime, you can stop by and enjoy their pizzas (love the BBQ pulled pork) plus the local and regional beers and ciders they have on tap in their adjoining restaurant.

Wishing you all a wonderful Labor Day weekend. Keep the firefighters battling the wildfires in your thoughts and prayers.

U.S. Hop Production Up 13 Percent in 2013

This blog is a reprint of an article by Capital Press, posted with their permission.

YAKIMA, Wash. — U.S. hop production was up 13 percent from 61.2 million pounds in 2012 to 69.3 million pounds in 2013, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service.

The crop was valued at $249 million, up 28 percent from a revised 2012 value of $195 million, according to a Dec. 23 NASS report. The average price per pound was $3.59 up from $3.18 a year ago and $3.14 two years ago.

All of this shows the industry, centered in Washington’s Yakima Valley, is doing very well and probably will be for the next two to three years, said Pete Mahony, director of supply chain management and purchasing for John I. Haas Inc., Yakima, a leader in hop processing, research and development. Oil in the hop cone or flower is used for flavoring and stabilizing beer.

Expansion of small, craft breweries is driving the hop increase, Mahony said. Craft breweries continue to increase in number and size, he said. Craft brewers make up only 7 to 8 percent of the brewing industry but have a 15 percent annual growth. Large brewers comprise the bulk of the industry but average 1 to 2 percent annual growth, he said.

Haas opened a new multi-million dollar center for hop research and development in Yakima in June. It includes a research brewery.

Of the national production, 79.2 percent (54.9 million pounds) comes from the Yakima Valley — mostly from farms around Moxee, Prosser and Toppenish. Climate, soil and length of sunlight hours were factors in the Yakima Valley becoming the premier hop growing region in the U.S., Mahony said.

Another 12.3 percent (8.5 million pounds) is from Oregon’s Willamette Valley between Salem and Woodburn, and the remaining 8.5 percent (5.8 million pounds) is from the Caldwell, Idaho, area.

Acres harvested in 2013 were: 27,062 for Washington; 4,786 for Oregon; and 3,376 for Idaho, for a U.S. total of 35,224. Those figures were up slightly from a June 1 forecast.

Idaho is growing more rapidly in production and acreage than Washington and Oregon. That’s because Idaho has more acreage readily available for expansion while acreage is getting tighter in Washington and Oregon, Mahony said.

Washington will have to expand hop picking and drying facilities in a couple of years to keep increasing acreage, he said. Oregon growers deal with more downey mildew because of the wetter Willamette climate but some varieties grow better there, Mahony said.

Prices are stronger in Washington and Oregon at $3.68 per pound versus $2.64 per pound in Idaho. That’s because Washington and Oregon have more of the expensive aroma varieties for flavoring and Idaho has more alpha varieties for bitterness, Mahony said.

Harvested hops can be stored three to five years depending on whether it is stored in pellets, extract or further refinements of extract, he said.