Asheville, NC — “This is the largest fresh hop purchase I have had on my farm, and (from) talking to other hop farmers who have been farming for 3 or 4 years, largest they have ever had. They [brothers Luke Dickinson and Walt Dickinson] were pretty excited when they came out to the farm. When they saw the hops were really clean, it caused them to want to buy more,” said Josh from OBJoyful hop farm in South Asheville in reference to the recent July 12th purchase of 85 pounds of hops from his farm by Wicked Weed Brewing as well as the additional purchase being made this Tuesday, July 23rd.
Most beer that is produced in the country is brewed with dried hops, which come from large hop farms that can afford to have their hops processed. According to the Hop Growers of America, “The Yakima Valley contains approximately 75 percent of the total United States hop acreage, with an average farm size of 450 acres (182 hectares) accounting for over 77 percent of the total United States hop crop.“ But when brewers are looking to use local hops, dried hops aren’t an option. Small farmers in Western North Carolina have little access to any of kind of large scale drying facilities and local producers are only able to sell their fresh hops when picked directly off the vine, and then must be used very shortly after they are harvested.
“A lot of people are trying to get into the hop market but it has been tricky for anyone trying to get in it,” said Josh. “So much money is involved in getting hops to the third year that the expense of drying and processing hops is too high for us to be competitive with farms with the Northwest. Taking the hops straight from the field to the vat is the only way small farms can afford to make it happen.”
This produces a unique challenge for breweries who are trying to use local hops, but must schedule out brews weeks, if not months, in advance in order to keep up with the demand of the customers.
“You have to be a small enough brewery that can move its brew schedule around to be ready for when the hops are ready,” said Walt Dickinson, Head of Brewing Operations. “You can’t make fresh hops ready when you are. We are fortunate enough to be in a stage in our business where we aren’t distributing and haven’t promised beer that keeps us locked into a brew schedule. This allows us to be able to put aside a brew we have scheduled and instead brew a fresh hop beer when the hops are ready. When we distribute, this will change, but hopefully we will be able to keep our 15 barrel brewhouse solely supplying the brewpub and still have the flexible to work with farmers.”
Its only during a hop harvest that whole hop cone, picked straight from the vine, can be used in beer production. The essential oils in hop cones are so fragile that they must be dried immediately after picking to preserve them. Otherwise, the oils disipate quickly and much of the flavor that is so loved by hopheads will be lost.
“Essentail oils provide much of the character found in hops,” said head brewer of Wicked Weed Brewing, Luke Dickinson. “We brewed the beer the same day they were picked from the vine to ensure that none of the flavors were lost, something which would have happened if we let the hops sit around for a few days.”
Wicked Weed Brewing, excited already by the early results of the fresh hops, has planned to gather another batch from OBJoyful farms this Tuesday, July 23rd and brew with them the same day.
“We would love for people to come out on brew day this Tuesday and witness the fresh hops being put into the beer,” said Luke. “It is one of the coolest things I have ever done as a brewer and I hope other people get to experience that with us.”
Both of these fresh hop beers are slated to be on tap for IPA day on August 1st.
Due to the ever changing nature of beer, check for updates on Facebook at wickedweedbrewing for actual availablity times or on the website at wickedweedbrewing.com
This Friday Wicked Weed Brewing will be releasing Transcendence, the first of their bretta series beers where all the beers are fermented 100% with the wild yeast, Brettanyomesous. Brettanyomesis is considered a cultured wild yeast traditionally found in belgian farmhouse ales and is a unpredictable cousin of traditional brewers yeast.
ABOUT WICKED WEED BREWING
Wicked Weed Brewing opened December 28th, 2013 in Asheville, North Carolina and has quickly become known for its creative and adventurous brewing style. Consistently having 20+ beers on tap, Wicked Weed’s flagship is its’ Freak Double IPA as well as it’s wide array of open fermented Belgian styles, including endless variations on the saison, as well as its’ barrel aged beers. The Black Angel Cherry Sour has become a staple sour in the Asheville beer scene.
Wicked Weed Brewing is currently a 15 Barrel Brewhouse with a sour production facility, the Funk House, behind its main building and a barrel aging site in Fairveiw, North Carolina. Wicked Weed is looking to become the regional leader in production of sour and barrel aged beers. Their faciltiy currently houses 250+ barrels of againg beer with a capacity of 400 barrels. They are slated to become the largest brewpub in the Southeast this year based upon the statistics which the Brewer’s Association releases every year.