For a number of years, the winding down of summer brings one of my favorite traditions: hop harvest. Brian Hunt, from nearby Moonlight Brewing — the best brewer you’ve probably never heard of unless you’re from the Bay Area — has a quarter-acre of hops planted on his brewery property, known as “The Abbey de St. Humulus,” which he uses each year to make his Fresh Hop Ale, Homegrown. As we do every year we’re able, the whole family, mother-in-law included, made our way to hop harvest, which Brian does 19th century-style. Which means that entire families get together for the day, and spend hours cutting down the bines, and hand-picking the hops and filling up buckets, which will be dumped into the beer without being kilned the same day, all the while eating, drinking and socializing. In a few weeks, Homegrown will be on draft at select bars around the Bay Area, along with plenty of other fresh hop beers as beerjolais nouveau season gets underway. Below is a little photo essay of our day picking hops.
A row of hops, ready to be picked.
My son Porter helping me with the first stages of harvesting, cutting the bines along the bottom.
The next step will be cutting them at the top, so we can pull them down to pick the hop cones off of the bines.
Brin Hunt working the long knife, bring down a bine for harvesting.
A shady spot is made under multiple pop-up canopies with a tarp floor, where the hop bines are laid out for picking, then everybody sits around and carefully pulls off the hop flowers, discarding the leaves, stems, bines and other material so only the hops that flavor the beer are separated into buckets.
Only the flowers go into the beer.
My wife Sarah demonstrating how when one bucket is filled, you move on to the next empty one.
While hops are not simply loaded into your beer glass, like bitter ice cubes, with some hoppy beers, it certainly seems that way.
There’s nothing quite like being in a hop field at harvest time, the sights and smells are amazing, with the intense aromas of hops hanging thick in the air.
My daughter Alice digging in an almost-full bucket of freshly picked hops, nearly ready to be added to the beer.
A very fun day picking hops in the warm California sunshine. While it was great fun, we’re all exhausted and a little sore, with scratches all over our bodies. Thank goodness, tomorrow is Labor Day, and we can relax without doing much labor, apart from enjoying a few beers.
In a few weeks time, keep an eye out for Moonlight Brewing’s Homegrown Fresh Hop Ale, along with many other fresh hop, or wet hop, beers. They’re only around for a very short time, and once they;re gone, that’s it until next year. These are beers with intense hop aromas and flavors, and the fresher they are, better they taste.
Mike S says
Looks like a great time! Hope to come across some of the beer soon
Hella cool – pls let us know which SFBA beer bars will be serving them (assuming you get the info from Moonlight).