Drivers entering Yakima can’t miss the sign: “Yakima, the Palm Springs of Washington.” A good choice for another welcoming sign might be “Hop City, USA.”
The Washington Hop Commission, the Hop Growers of America and the American Hop Museum are all in Yakima or nearby towns. (However, the Washington Beer Commission is in Kirkland.)
|Searching for hop leaves, stems and seeds|
“Hops with high amounts of bitter acid are worth more,” said Mike Firman, program manager for WSDA's Chemical & Hop Laboratory. “And hops with high amounts of leaf and stem and seed are worth less. The market and the contract between growers and dealers determines by how much.”
WSDA’s lab hopping during hop season
With the growing popularity of craft brews, American pale ales and IPAs, WSDA is busier than ever supporting Washington’s hop industry.
The agency’s hops team—consisting of several permanent lab staff and up to 35 seasonal workers—sample, inspect, grade and certify hops with the growers paying a fee for the service. Even some growers from Oregon and Idaho truck part of their harvest to WSDA’s lab for inspection.
|Hop harvest ends in October|
“During harvest, we work seven days a week,” Chris noted. “We realize how important our work is for providing unbiased, neutral hop inspections.”
After putting the hops through a screen to remove fine debris, inspectors pick through to remove leaves and stems and look for unwanted seeds. Some customers also pay for the lab to determine the hops’ brewing value, the concentration of bitter acids in the hops.
|Chris Wiseman, Chemical and Hop Lab|
On peak days, more than 100 lots are collected and sampled.
Chris said the peak was 140 lots in a single day, stretching staff capabilities to the max. Core samples from 350,000 bales this season have been analyzed for leaf, stem and seed content, surpassing last year’s 308,000 bales. Some 2,800 commodity inspection certificates were issued.
Hop workers get media spotlight
The Yakima Herald-Republic recently captured in words and photos the enormous effort it takes WSDA staff to support growers, dealers and brewers. So the next time you see a micro-beer in the store or on tap, or enjoy a cold brew, remember that it’s likely the hops in that product were grown in Washington and inspected by WSDA.