Fresh Hops Fly

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This year, we partnered with Alaska Air Cargo to bring fresh hop beers to Alaska and Hawaii.

The week of September 5th wasn’t exactly a normal week for brewery co-owner Kevin Quinn. His itinerary looked a little something like this:

  • Late Monday night- early Tuesday morning: help load Yakima Chief Hops trucks up with fresh hops from the family hop farm, Loftus Ranches. Then drive to Seattle to hop on a first thing in the morning flight to fly to Maui alongside the hops.
  • Tuesday: Land in Maui and head to Maui Brewing Co. to assist in their first ever fresh hop brew day.
  • Wednesday: Fly back to Seattle, drive home to Yakima.
  • Thursday: help load Yakima Chief Hops trucks with MORE fresh hops.
  • Friday: Back to Seattle, to fly to Anchorage. Same story – help the team at 49th State Brewing brew their first ever fresh hop beer.
  • Saturday: Fly back to Seattle, drive back to Yakima, and catch up on sleep.
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It definitely wasn’t your average work week, but it was an absolute thrill to get to fly fresh hops to Maui and Anchorage with Alaska Air Cargo, and share the glory that is fresh hop season with others outside of our PNW bubble.

Fresh hop season is a mythical time here in the PNW. Beer lovers from all over the world come out to taste these delicious beers that are only available within a tiny window of time. Right now, our Yakima taproom is bustling with brewers and craft beer superfans – just on Monday, you could glance around our patio and see brewers from Chile, Australia, the Czech Republic, and multiple US states, all out to celebrate the happiest (and hoppiest) time of year.

A primer on fresh hop beers: Fresh hop beers are beers made with hops picked straight off the hop bine, before they’re dried. These beers have a more intense, floral, bright, and earthy hop aroma than your average beer. Think of it this way: a beer using dried hops is more akin to your mom making a sauce using dried herbs, and a fresh hop beer is more akin to your Nona making a sauce using fresh herbs, plucked straight from the garden.


We like to boast that we have the freshest fresh hops around: it only takes 4 minutes for the hops to travel from the picking machine at Loftus Ranches to the kettle at our brewery on the hop farm. You can truly taste the difference – again, think of that metaphor of your Nona’s sauce, and imagine she purchased fresh herbs from the store, rather than straight from her garden. It’s a more subtle difference than the difference between dried and fresh, but it’s still present: the faster a hop can go from farm to glass, the more those fresh hop characteristics will shine through. That’s why the PNW is such a Mecca for fresh hop beers – we grow 73% of the US’s hop crop here in WA. Idaho grows 16%, while Oregon grows 11%. We’re rich in fresh hops, and the Yakima Valley specifically is the center of this world. We’re fortunate here at Bale Breaker to be the only brewery of our size that grows 100% of our own hops: which means we have the unique ability to get the freshest hops into our beer as quickly as possible.

But our goal is always to spread the joy of fresh hop season, which is how our partnership with Alaska Air Cargo, Yakima Chief Hops, Maui Brewing Co., and 49th State Brewing came about. The results of that partnership? Maui Brewing Co. in Maui, Hawaii, and 49th State Brewing in Anchorage, Alaska, were able to brew fresh hop beers using our family’s hops less than 24 hours after being harvested.

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