Just like growing vegetables in your garden and then using them in a delicious meal, there’s just something special about watching hops that started as tiny rhizomes grow until they’re 10 ft in the air with an abundance of cones and leaves. It’s hard to explain, it’s like you develop a connection with it. We feel it every time we’re out visiting different farms near and far.
We love having a bond with the ingredients we use in our products. We always jump on the opportunity to visit a farm, learn about their operation, and get to know the wonderful people that work there. Seeing them have the same passion about what they’re producing as we have about our beer really draws us in and the folks at Boondocks Hops exemplify that type of care and passion.
Last Thursday we were lucky enough to join them for their last hop harvest of the season. The weather couldn’t have been any better that day for a nice, foggy early morning drive out to New Richmond, Ohio. When we arrived, the sun was peeking over the hop fields and the Boondocks crew was almost set up to start picking their last rows of Nugget hops. This variety has been around for many years and plays a huge role in the craft beer industry.
We took some time enjoying the calmness of the farm with a warm cup of coffee and catching up, but soon it was time to get to work. Once the remaining bines (plants that wrap their stems in a helix around a supporting structure) had all been cut down by hand and were loaded into a trailer, we followed it to the harvester next.
The Boondocks and MadTree crew worked side by side loading bines into the harvester, a machine that separates the bine and leaves from the cone resulting in receiving freshly picked hops on the other end. As the pungent hop aroma filled the air, so did the excitement from everyone involved knowing that soon these hops would be added to a beer. This harvest also signified the end of another successful hop growing season at the farm.
Two hours later, we loaded up these beautiful hops in our truck and headed back to the brewery. The brewhouse was already humming along and ready for the Nugget hops upon arrival. We loaded them up into our piece of equipment called a hop back, an amazing fancy machine that extracts maximum flavors from the hops and transfers it to the beer. All together, it was about four hours from cutting the hop bines down in the field to adding the cones to the batch at brew-house. That’s as fresh as a beer can get.
One of the greatest feelings in this industry is being able to share the fruits of your labor with each other and the community around you. Cheers to this year’s IPA made with Boondocks Hops and here’s to only one more year until we get to do it again.
Head Brewer – MadTree Brewing Co.