1. Planting and growing – The hop plant is a perennial crop cultivated from root cuttings called rhizomes. The climbing vines grow more than 18 feet during the growing season. In the spring, the hop shoots are trained clockwise around twine, allowing them to grow upward to the top of a trellis. Throughout the summer, hops receive regular crop management, including irrigation and pest control.
2. Harvesting and drying – Hop harvest starts in August and concludes in late September. Different varieties peak at different times during the season. After hop cones are harvested, they are dried in on-farm kilns and baled into 200-pound bales. Many hops are then processed into hop pellets by grinding the hops using a hammer mill and pressing the powder through a pellet die. Hop pellets are vacuum sealed in Mylar bags to prevent oxidation and deterioration of the resin and oils, which are essential to making beer.
3. Boiling and fermenting – A brewer acquires the hop pellets and starts the brewing process. After malted grains are mashed and drained to make unfermented beer, or wort, hops are added to the liquid for flavor and as a stability agent. The wort and hops are boiled to kill bacteria and extract the flavor, as well as the bitterness, from the hops. Wort is then cooled and moved to a fermentation tank, where yeast is added. The mixture typically ferments for at least two weeks. Here, most sugars in the wort convert into alcohol.
4. Conditioning and filtering – The brewer now has beer, but it’s flat. Beer is moved to a conditioning tank or may be conditioned in the same tank, where the yeast settles and the beer ages and mellows. Beer may or may not be filtered afterward, which helps improve flavor and clarity.
5. Bottling – Beer is packaged in cans, bottles and kegs, ready to enjoy.