Early August is a good time to visit with hop growers. The vines are tall and strong, themachines are buffed and ready, but harvest is still a month or so away. A group of Grand Teton Brewing Company’s brewers benefited from the growers’ hospitality during this “slower” season the first weekend in August. Brewmaster Rob Mullin, Head Brewer Kevin Bolen, Brewer Chaz Hansen and Brewer Trainee AnnaLisa Gardiner made the scenic drive through the lava fields of Craters of the Moon National Monument to Parma, Idaho to meet with our local grower partners.
We toured the fields of all four Southern Idaho hop farmers. Grower Mike Gooding and his daughter Dianne Haas showed us their processing facility, where the hops are picked, dried and baled. Nate Jackson showed us his farm and discussed the challenges and opportunities he faces as an organic grower. Marty Ungewitter and Brad Clack from hop supplier S.S. Steiner treated us all to a convivial Mexican lunch before we met up with the Obendorf family, whose hop farm is the largest in Southern Idaho.
The whole group drove north through the beautiful Western Idaho landscape to the Obendorf’s cabin on the Salmon River in White Bird. Greg and Ann Obendorf prepared an amazing dinner of thick steaks and fresh Idaho sweet corn. We enjoyed meeting more of the growers’ families and friends. Early the next morning we all made the trip over the mountain and down into Hell’s Canyon, the deepest canyon in North America, where the Obendorf’s treated us to a spectacular day on the river in two jet boats. It was truly a once in a lifetime experience for each of us from the brewery.
The brewers were not only impressed by the growers’ hospitality, but by the quality of theirhops. Idaho hops have only recently become available to small brewers, and we have been quite happy with them so far. For the first time Grand Teton Brewing Company is writing five year contracts for hops that specify Idaho-grown whenever available. We’ll be returning to Parma this month to observe the harvest and bring back fresh hops for our first Fresh Hop Ale, and we’re working on more ways to collaborate with our new grower friends. Watch this space for some exciting announcements soon!
– Rob Mullin