Hops, as in beer

In my novel Nearly Canaan, Joshua and Jaya settle into a place unlike anything they would have imagined. It’s desert, for one thing, where nearly everything has to be irrigated, for another. Quite simply, it’s a lot like Yakima, in the middle of Washington state, where some of the world’s best hops are grown.

Did you know …

  1. The flowers (also called cones) are full of perishable resins that are dried and processed for use as a bittering, stabilizing, and flavoring agent in beer.
  2. Hops have a complex chemical composition leading to two distinct types. Bittering hops have higher concentrations of alpha acids and counter the sweetness of the malt base of a beer. Aroma hops, added toward the end of brewing, prevent the evaporation of essential oils, thus retaining and enhancing the taste.
  3. The choice of hops and techniques of hopping can give a particular recipe its unique taste, as today’s microbrewers are emphasizing. Quite simply, some hop varieties are much better than others in creating a distinctive brew. Think of the way wine lovers describe a bottle, and then apply it here.
  4. The vines (or technically, bines – vines without tendrils) are typically grown on strings or cables to overhead wires, maybe 15 to 20 feet in the air, and cut down for harvest. They’re loaded onto wagons and taken to the hop house for processing and packing.
  5. They grow best in a soil type that is also highly suited for potatoes.
  6. The United States is the world’s leading grower, followed by Germany, together accounting for more than four-fifths of the global hop supply. Despite its fame in the field, the Czech Republic is a distant third.
  7. Three distinct districts in the Yakima Valley, each uniquely different in their output, together produce more than 77 percent of the nation’s hop crop. Most of the farms are third- and fourth-generation family operations.
  8. Pollinated seeds are deemed undesirable for beer. Only female plants are grown in commercial fields. So much for sex discrimination.
  9. Harvesting is a labor-intensive effort, dependent on migrant workers.
  10. They’re in the hemp family, though I don’t know of anyone smoking them.



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