Fresh Hops Fly, taking fresh hops to places they’ve never been before



Bale Breaker, YCH Hops, and Alaska Airlines are getting fresh hops to breweries in Hawaii and Alaska for the first time.

We take it for granted here in the Pacific Northwest, but not every brewery in the nation has the ability to brew fresh hop beers. It’s hard to imagine a world so dark, so bleak, so sad. (Photo above by Ingrid Barrentine.)

Maui Brewing in Hawaii is a great brewery. So too is 49th State Brewing in Alaska. Neither brewery has ever brewed a fresh hop beer. Logistically, it’s just too difficult. By most definitions, the brewery needs to use the freshly picked hops withing 24 hours of harvest in order for the beer to earn the title “fresh hop.” Getting hops from Yakima to Anchorage, for example, within a 24-hour timeframe is tricky, if not impossible.

With the help of Alaska Air Cargo, fresh hops are finding their way to Maui Brewing and 49th State Brewing. It’s happening right now. This week, Kevin Quinn (AKA Quinn), one of the co-founders of Bale Breaker Brewing, is racking up some serious frequent flier miles. He is, essentially, personally delivering the hops to the breweries. You can read more about it here.


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It’s widely known that Bale Breaker Brewing has a special relationship with the hop industry. The brewery is built on the family’s fourth-generation hop farm. According to Bale Breaker, “We like to boast that we have the freshest fresh hops around: it only takes 4 minutes for the hops to travel from the picking machine at Loftus Ranches to the kettle at our brewery on the hop farm…”

“Our goal is always to spread the joy of fresh hop season, which is how our partnership with Alaska Air Cargo, Yakima Chief Hops, Maui Brewing Co., and 49th State Brewing came about.”


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It’s a Carefully Orchestrated Event

Here’s the short version. The hops are harvested near Yakima and immediately loaded on one of YCH Hops’ trucks and driven 2.5 hours to Sea-Tac International Airport where they are loaded onto a plane. Kevin Quinn is also loaded onto the plane to ensure things go as planned. The plane is then flown to its destination.


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While Quinn and the hops are still in the air, the brewery begins brewing the beer. The brewery will be ready and waiting for the hops when they arrive at Maui Brewing, adding the hops to the brew immediately. Quinn then returns to Yakima and does it again. This time destined for Anchorage.

This whole adventure is a proof-of-concept exercise. It’s a collaborative effort involving Alaska Air Cargo and YCH Hops. Bale Breaker is just along for the ride, so to speak. Also, Quinn will provide some fresh hop expertise for the newbies. Depending on how things go, Alaska Air Cargo and YCH may look at creating a fresh hop express service, or something like that.

Here’s the way Bale Breaker Brewing describes the whole thing on social media:

FRESH HOPS FLY! Some weeks, Quinn wakes up in the same place every day and comes into work like any co-owner of a brewery…. Other weeks, his itinerary looks like this:⁠⁠

  • MONDAY: help load fresh hops into Yakima Chief Hops’ trucks from our family hop farm, Loftus Ranches⁠⁠.
  • TUESDAY: fly to Maui, Hawaii with said hops, brew a fresh hop beer with Maui Brewing Co⁠⁠.
  • WEDNESDAY: fly home from Hawaii⁠⁠
  • THURSDAY: load EVEN MORE FRESH HOPS into Yakima Chief Hops’ trucks⁠⁠
  • FRIDAY: fly to Anchorage, Alaska, brew a fresh hop beer with 49th State Brewing Co.⁠⁠
  • SATURDAY: fly back home and catch up on sleep.

⁠⁠Just another day in the life of a brewer during fresh hop season, featuring an epic collaboration with Alaska Airlines, Yakima Chief Hops, Maui Brewing Co., and 49th State Brewing. Visit the link below to read all the details. ⁠https://www.balebreaker.com/blog/fresh-hops-fly





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