Hop Plucking at Two Beers

I have never worked in a production brewery before. In fact, after all these years, I still consider my self a novice homebrewer even though my great batches far outnumber my “lets just pour this one out” batches. When Two Beers Brewing, an innovative brewery in the SODO area south of Seattle, sent out a call on Facebook and Twitter for volunteers to help pick the cones off the hop vines they were bringing back from the Yakima valley, I signed up! These hops will be used in brewing their Fresh Hop 2012.

Joel and Caitlin help with the plucking

Head Brewer and Founder, Joel VandenBrink, and the Two Beers crew were hands deep into the piles of Centennial hops along with the rest of us, sharing stories and great conversation about the beers they make and the condition of Mankind in general. 

When asked about dry hopping vs wet hoping and proportions he used visavis bittering and aroma, Joel explained that he is very precise about how much bitterness he wants in his beers (especially when making 2,000 gallons at a time) but may adjust proportions for aroma based on the type of beer he is making. There is Art to this as well as Science.

We plucked cones together for quite a while and I eavesdropped on all the conversations going on, soaking up beer knowledge by the earsful. I left thinking this would be a really cool place to work.

Hop plucking is a really intense, high-skill work task not commonly covered under beer law labor agreements. You need at least one hand and two fingers (an opposable thumb is a must) and the ability to softly pull the flower from the vine without crushing it or stepping on it if you drop it on the ground. You also need steeled resolve to contain the joy you feel when you come to realize that this is kind of fun. Okay, so if I had to do this every day, it might get old, but for one night fueled by free beer (and dang good beer too) and pizza, it was truly delightful.Thanks Joel and Two Beers for this opportunity, It was a hoot! I’d do it again next year for sure.

Fantastic time! We plucked off about 100 pounds of hops and left quite a mess of leaves, stems, branches, vines and residual residue destined for a compost heap somewhere.

The beers I tried while laboring mightily on the task at hand included a SODO Brown, Pumpkin Spice 2012 (a really wonderful pumpkin ale I thought), Immersion Amber, Echo IPA, and Crooked Belgian Wit. All get a thumbs up. This is one nice brewery!

You can read my previous article about them right here.


Photography and content by Bob Shoemaker
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