Thursday, September 1, 2011

Hopunion Hop & Beer School 2011 : Guest Post by Brian of Short Snout Brewing

This past week the folks at Hopunion, LLC held their 8th annual Hops & Brew School at their headquarters in Yakima, WA. I’ve always heard great things about this event and made the decision that I’d actually go this year and see for myself. There are two, two day sessions to choose from and I went with the Thursday/Friday session.  Being a one car family and not wanting to take the car away from Hillary I sent out a Hop Signal to see if any other locals were making the 3.5 – 4hr trek to Yakima. Turns out Charles Culp (@humulonered) was heading out with two of his friends and had room in the car. So Wednesday morning Hillary dropped me off at Charles’s house where I also meet Edward (@SouthAustinEd) from South Austin Brewing in Austin, TX and Marc (@alphking) of Portland Pub Tours among other things. We packed up the car and were on the road.

First stop was in Hood River for lunch. Double Mountain brewing would satisfy that need quite well. This was my first trip there and was happy to finally make it out. With lunch I enjoyed the Bocktopus, their version of a traditional bock. I was a bit worried about getting a slightly bigger beer for lunch, but I’m a fan of this style and was not disappointed.

After lunch we walked the two blocks over to the Full Sail tasting room for a quick half pint before hitting the road. I went with the Hop Pursuit.

With bellies full and the clock ticking we were back on the road. Our goal was to get to Yakima in time for the dinner Hopunion was serving that evening for the first group that attended the Tuesday/Wednesday session. We crossed the river just east of Hood River and were on our way. Being a beautiful day in the Gorge we did make a quick stop at Maryhill Vineyards to check out their beautiful amphitheater…no wine tasters though. This is a beer trip after all.

Back on the road to Yakima. Not much happening here. And anyone that has traveled to Yakima knows this to be the truth. OK, 4:30 and we roll in. At this point we’re not sure if dinner is at 5 or 6, so we take a gamble and say 5. Ed and I get dropped off at our hotel to check in while Marc and Charles head off to theirs. We agree to meet back at 5:00 to head over to Hopunion. Not quite enough time to take a quick nap, but I tell you if I could have I would.

We pull up to Hopunion just a few minutes past 5:00 to this lovely sight…

This got the taste buds going (sorry, Emily). We wonder into the warehouse…no one here, but there are coolers of beer so we get started. Turns out dinner isn’t until 6:00 and the first group isn’t even back from the hop yards yet. No problem. More beer for us right!?!? Around 5:45 the first group comes back, we have some great pulled pork for dinner (probably too much), some great beers and that’s the night.

We start off day 1 with a tour of Hopunion.

Of course being in the hop and beer business they have to have space for entertaining and relaxing. First up is their tap room, then the game room. Game room was cool as they had two walls of concrete that over the years has been signed, “tagged”, etc from breweries all around the world, and the crew from Dirty Jobs.

To be totally honest some of the speakers were much more enjoyable and educational than others. Luckily we had beers from several Colorado breweries to help us get through.

Morning of day 2 continued on with speakers and beer…but we were all anxious for the real reason we were all there…the hops! Before heading out to the hop years we were treated to some sensory euphoria. Several varieties of hops laid out for everyone to touch, rub, and smell.

Now, off to Loftus Ranches Hop Farm, one of the longest running and largest hop farms supplying the craft beer industry in the US. For this visit we were able to witness the harvesting of the Simcoe® hop.

The crew was ready to head back to Portland at this point so we departed. I believe a good time was had by all and we learned a lot. If you have the chance I suggest you attend. It’s a great experience.

One quick stop on our way back to Portland to admire the majestic wind turbines…

So long, Hopunion trip... See you next year...