Once spring arrives we begin to "string up" which means tying individual threads of coconut coir to the cable on top the 18-foot tall trellis. This is very labour intensive as each of the over 60,000 strings are hand tied and then clipped into the ground by hand. Training immediately follows stringing. Training is just as it sounds, bines of each plant are taken and wrapped clockwise up the coir that was just put in This shows or "trains" the hop plant the way.
Into the heat of the summer the hops first go up, tall and skinny until they switch to side-arm growth and fattening up. As summer begins to give way to autumn and the hop cones have become robust and filled with lovely aromatic essentials oils. They are ready to be harvested. All of the bines are chopped down one by one and fed into our Wolf picker which separates the hops from their bine. The hops are then dried, cooled, pelletized and packaged, awaiting their final destination of a brew kettle near you.
Pelletization is a multi-step process. Bales are loaded into a bale breaker where they are broken up and sent into the hammer mill which grinds it into a chunky powder. From there, a silo provides a holding tank until they're augered into a mixer. After the mixer is arguably the most important step of the entire year - sending the hop powder through the pellet mill. There are three bolts that tighten the rollers to the dye. Slight changes affect the compression of the pellets and how hot the pellets and dye get. Throughout pelletizing, we are constantly monitoring and tweaking it to ensure perfect pellets that don't exceed 120°. Crazy, all of harvest comes down to three bolts.
As winter lets go, pruning of the hops takes place, this is also called "crowning". We prune in two ways; mechanical and burning, depending on the year and variety. Pruning is the best way eliminate any disease that has wintered over in the crown of the plants.
The short and skinny of it
- Dried under 110°
- Pelletized in a low temperature mill in cold storage
- Double nitrogen purged
- Vacuum sealed
- 11 lb Mylar bags
- Hands on growing to use less herb and pesticides and maintain healthy soils
- Learn more about our sustainability here.
the nuts and bolts of it
The cones are then fed into a four-tiered louvered floor dryer. Forced hot air and time get their moisture down to around 10%. The dried hops condition on the cool warehouse floor before we bale them and store them in cold storage until it's time to pelletize.
Our Wolf 220 Picker came over from Germany. With lots of spinning fingers, vacuums, and conveyor belts, the hop cones go out one way and the stems, leaves, and string another.
From the mill, the pellets go through a cooling drum and spread out until they're below 50°. We then double nitrogen purge and vacuum seal the pellets in mylar bags
to ensure no oxygen remains in the package. After that, they're ready to be a part of delicious beer!
"I love these hops! They are the nicest Crystals I have ever smelled!"
- Head Brewer, Steel Bender Brewyard
Did you know hops are a bine, not a vine? On a bine, the stem itself twists around, verses a vine that sends out tendrils to hold on.