​Is a Fresh Hop Beer Worth the Effort? Inside Two Beers’ New Logistics to Get it Done

​Harvest season for hops is upon us and breweries have had to scramble to not just get the hops from field to kettle as quick as possible, but protocols have been changed as well to ensure pandemic safety measures.

Although different, the need to make ​its Fresh Hop IPA for the 12th year in a row was important for Seattle’s Two Beers Brewing.

“The picking ‘party’ required more planning than we have been used to,” ​said Marketing Manager Maura Hardman​. “We’ve been doing this since 2009 so our hop-picking parties were on autopilot for a while (except for when they hosted hop-picking parties at a few select accounts in 2018 and 2019, which required a little more logistical planning).”

In some ways, Hardman said the new experience was actually better. The picking team moved locations to the back loading dock so members could spread out significantly.

“Since we are only allowed to seat folks outside at The Woods tasting room, it was better not to occupy precious seating,” Hardman said. “The new location had a lot of benefits though. It made unloading the hops much easier since we could pull the truck right up to the dock, we had the benefit of shade back there, so we were much cooler and didn’t have to set up event tents, and we were much closer to the brewers’ walk-in, so getting the freshly picked hops to the cooler for a few hours before they went into the batch was super easy. We will likely keep the new location.”

Tasting room manager, Ian Joyce, runs the setup and logistics for the picking party, and he made sure everyone was taking extra measures to ensure that Two Beers went above and beyond regarding cleanliness and sanitation, so he bought supplies like tarps, clippers and gardening gloves, and sanitized everything possible.

“Right now our policy for anyone entering the building is to fill out paperwork and get their temperature checked (our staff even do a daily temp check before starting their shifts), but no one really batted an eye about it,” Hardman said. “Of course, the mask wearing kind of hinders the full experience of the hop picking party’s intoxicating aromas, but it still smelled lovely out there.”

At Two Beers, Fresh Hop 2020 season started on August 5 with an early morning road trip to Puterbaugh Farms in Yakima Valley. Head Brewer Jesse Ransavage and Assistant Brewer Andrew Potts harvested over 30 bines by hand, loaded up a moving truck with the fragrant lupulin haul, and returned to Seattle where more than 145 pounds of Centennial hops were picked then added post whirlpool starting with a 6 a.m. brew on August 6.

“Hops don’t care if there’s a pandemic or restricted bar access. When they’re ready, we’re ready,” Potts said. “We’re grateful to our volunteers, bar staff, to the sales team, marketing, and (sibling company Seattle Cider Co) cider makers — most of our company has hands in this (hop-picking) process. We were going to continue this tradition of supporting Washington agriculture any way we could.”

Fresh Hop IPA (6.2% ABV/70 IBUs) features Centennial hops from Puterbaugh Farms. The recipe is rounded out with locally grown Simcoe and Citra hops resulting in a balanced IPA that packs a hoppy punch. Two Beers typically goes with Centennial because they are the first hops ready to harvest. In previous years, Two beers have featured additional hops if they were ready (last year it had both Centennial and Cluster).

“Since we are at nature’s mercy if we want to be the first to brew our Fresh Hop,” Hardman said, noting it’s an important differentiator for the company because it wants to stand out a bit amid 400-plus Washington State breweries.

So what was missing? The chance to connect with consumers and educate on the fly.

“We have gotten a lot of folks who joined the pick spontaneously when they saw us out on the patio in front of the tasting room with massive hop bines,” Hardman said. “We used that as an opportunity to educate folks about hops, stopping to break open a cone and letting them smell the amazing lupulin gold on the inside.

“We didn’t want to draw a crowd for obvious reasons, so we definitely missed being able to pique curiosities.”

​The main bulk of the product is going to be canned on the morning of Friday, August 28 with sales starting at 3 p.m that day. A small-batch version that used Kviek yeast was released on August 21 at the brewery as well.

​To keep the beer extra fresh, the canned pallets go directly into the walk-in cooler, and will likely be shipped to Columbia​ Distributing (Two Beers’ wholesaler)​ the same day they are canned in a truck​ for a 30-minute drive​ and then stored cold upon arrival at the distribution warehouse​ before being sent out to off-premise retail​.

​Hardman said the brewery often names​ its beers something very “Pacific Northwest” or outdoorsy​ and is ​intended to evoke a suggestion of how to engage with the beer — like Day Hike or Field Day.

​”​In the case of Fresh Hop IPA, we kept it simple and literally called it by the most exciting aspect of the beer​,” she said​. ​”​It’s Fresh ​Hop IPA because it is a Fresh Hop IPA.​”

The can and box feature that boldly so even ​though a bartender or brewery rep​ can’t be in front of a customer to answer questions about the beer, there is little ambiguity around what ​they will find when ​they crack open that can.

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