Fresh Hops Fly: Bringing Fresh Hop Beers to Alaska and Hawaii

Fresh hop season is a mythical time in the Pacific Northwest. Beer lovers from all over the world come out to taste these delicious beers that are only available within a tiny window of time. Yakima is the center of the fresh hop universe: 73% of the nation’s hops are grown in the Yakima Valley, and are only harvested within a one month period every September. Fresh hop beers are rarely found outside of the PNW due to the nature of these fragrant beers – they’re much easier to brew, logistically, for brewers within driving distance of hop farms – but this year by partnering with Alaska Air Cargo and Yakima Chief Hops , Bale Breaker Brewing Company was able to fly thousands of pounds of fresh hops from their family hop farm, Loftus Ranches, to Maui Brewing Co.. in Kihei, Maui and 49th State Brewing in Anchorage, Alaska, going from hop farm to brewery kettle within 24 hours.

This logistical achievement is a potential game-changer for the craft beer industry, allowing breweries farther away from the hop farms of the PNW to access fresh hops within the crucial first 24 hours after harvesting, when they are best used in fresh hop beers. 

The brew days were true collaborations – Bale Breaker co-owner Kevin Quinn flew to Hawaii to brew with Maui Brewing Co. and pass on some fresh hop knowledge, and Quinn and Bale Breaker co-owner Kevin Smith flew to Alaska to brew with 49th State Brewing. The Bale Breaker brewers are some of the most knowledgeable fresh hop brewers in the business, as Bale Breaker is uniquely positioned on their 4th generation hop farm, and the only brewery of their size to grow 100% of their hops. Hops are in this family’s DNA and they were thrilled to join this fun collaboration to pass on their knowledge.

Photo courtesy Ingrid Barrentine / Alaska Airlines

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