What Really Goes On At A Hop Harvest
At 6:38am today, we fired up the tractors, trucks, cutters and pickers and kicked off the annual Hop Harvest here at Rogue Farms in Independence, Oregon.
Despite the hot and dry summer, this is shaping up to be one of our best seasons ever. We and our fellow Oregon hop growers are expecting the biggest harvest in two decades.
The harvest is an intense and complicated chore than can take up to 48 hours for just a single variety. Because we do all of our picking and processing right on the farm, we can show you every step from bine to bale.
Hop bines are cut twice, first at ground level and then at the top near the trellis wires. We load the loose bines into trucks and drive them a grand total of 237-feet to the onsite processing area.
Here we load the bines on to a conveyor chain and send them into the picker. “Picker” is a nice way of saying it. The machine is actually bunch of sharp moving blade that chop the bines into bits. We recommend keeping your hands to yourself.
Sorting and Separating
We move the cones, twigs, leaves and bines through a series of sieves, fans and belts. The chaff is either separated or blown away, leaving only clean cones at the end of the line.
Fresh hops make excellent beer, but they lose their flavor and aroma quickly. To preserve our hops, we dry them in large kilns to reduce the moisture levels so they can be safely stored. Rogue Brewmaster John Maier likes to sniff the cones at every step so he knows exactly what he’ll be using to brew Rogue beers.
Kilning releases huge amount of steam and the aroma of cooking hops is indescribably wonderful.
After kilning we give our hops several hours to a day to cool down, constantly checking moisture levels until we know they’re dry enough for the final step.
Finally, the picked, sorted, separated, kilned and cooled cones are pressed into giant bales weighing 200 pounds apiece. Once the harvest of one variety is over, we’ll pick our other six varieties over the next few weeks, as they take their turn ripening in the sun of Rogue Farms.
If you want to see the real harvest and not just a virtual tour, Rogue Farms is open every day during the season. It’s an unforgettable experience and you’ll never taste a bottle of beer the same way again.
When you visit us, please be aware of harvest equipment on the roads. Keep your dogs and children in sight.
Join us and see how we grow beers, spirits, ciders and sodas from ground to glass.