I get invited to a number of events, most of which are staged in the plausible hope that good press will result. Less often, someone stages an event purely for fun and I get invited, too. Yesterday, Full Sail's John Harris took a group of mostly publicans out to the hop fields to see from whence our favorite spice comes--but I think mainly to drink some of his fine beer and enjoy some barbecue and fun.
The one bit of useful news is that we got a chance to sample the first batch of Lupulin. This one is made with First Gold hops, that English dwarf variety I mentioned last week. (John got the hops from the very field I visited.) He will have a second batch a week or two later made with a different hop (possibly Centennial; I forgot to jot down the info). John added an initial dose of dried Warrior hops to bitter (which some might regard as cheating, but which seems to produce far more stable, consistent results), then used First Gold the rest of the way. This is a far more bitter iteration of Lupulin than any that have come before. It's sharp and woody and has a bell-like clarity. A pure, ringing note to sound the start of fresh hop season.
Below are a few select photos from the day (click to enlarge). Angelo has a ton more.
On the bus ride down, John tells us, "no horseplay!" Actually, I think he was talking admiringly about pinot noir.
At harvest, a crew comes by and severs the bines at the root so the harvesting machine can pluck them right up (see below). In this ceremonial severing, a dramatic swing by one of the folks on the trip.
Hops drying. These are magnums, with an alpha of about 18%. Full Sail's Sandra Evans was collecting bags to take back to the brewery to use for educational purposes, and slid me a bag to collect a few myself. I owe Doug Weathers, the owner of Sodbuster Farms, at least a six pack of the imperial stout I plan to brew with them. Thanks Doug and Sandra!