In the world of hop growers and merchants, it’s said that “All roads lead to Harvest.” Inevitably, harvest winds die down for the year, and you’re left standing in the empty fields among the barren trellises. This is the time when growers reflect on the year’s growing season and harvest, while looking forward to the 2020 crop and its challenges and hopeful rewards.
2019 can be called a “good” to very good year with decent returns on both oil and alpha. Weather was generally favorable in all of the Pacific Northwest growing regions, though there were some notable challenges to growers brought by the elements.
A cool and wet early spring, especially in the Yakima region, proved tough for many of the baby hop crops to overcome resulting in poor yields on many of the hops planted this year. Many of the aroma germplasm were just too small when put in the ground- never reaching the wire after the growing cycle. Further, the few hot days in the area were not enough to stimulate growth in the baby alpha crops. Ultimately though, most growers brought in an average to above average crops with notable quality.
While many brewers were soaking in the information at the Craft Brewers Conference in Denver, Oregon hop growers found some of their crops underwater after severe rains in early April. It was hard to find an Oregon grower that could remember a time when flooding in fields was as bad- where the tips of hop poles were all that showed above the waterline.
Mother Nature reminded farmers that she is undeniably in charge yet in the end, she taught us that she’s ultimately a provider. Despite some being underwater for a time, the hops were not lost any provided a good crop. Cascade and Centennial crops were of notable quality- despite some difficulties in other regions. Rain reappeared at the end of Harvest and added a few challenges. Though cliché, Oregon growers are often not surprised by rain and adapted quickly to weather challenges.
The Idaho hop growing region was no different and saw a cool and wet early 2019 season. While cool weather favors aroma varieties, logically it does also raise the previously mentioned challenge of baby plantings in addition to the specter of mildew issues. Summer eventually brought warmer weather and near-ideal growing conditions in July. Many Idaho growers saw a later-than-normal start to harvest, with many happily reporting good to exceptional quality. Like their neighbors to the west, Idaho fields delivered high oil and alpha numbers with overall yields a bit over average.
Yes, the cooler, wetter early spring held back a lot of the baby crops across the PNW from reaching their full 1styear potential. And it’s true as we reported earlier that the Cascade crop looked less than stellar in many areas. Overall though, it was a fantastic year with particularly nice crops from Chinook, Cashmere, and El Dorado- to name a few.
As the hops roll in from all our growers throughout the PNW, we’re grateful for a milder growing season and the good that resulted. Nature may be the ultimate determining factor when it comes to the quality of a crop, but we wouldn’t trade the skill and knowledge of the growers we work with for anything.
Submitted by Chad Kennedy, Hop Specialist – BSG Hops