Harvesting Hops

Oregon is affectionately known as Beervana. Oregonians are beer crazy. Bend, Oregon, has been dubbed Beer City USA because it has the most craft breweries per capita.

And I have received a "beer-ducation" since arriving here 2.5 years ago. I have learned all about hops and barley and IPAs, and ales and lagers and nitros and casks and more.

So imagine my surprise when I stumbled across the fall hop harvest here in the Willamette Valley of Oregon. I was on my way to visit a student teacher at a local high school and came around the bend to see a team hard at work harvesting this beer staple. Oregon is the second largest hop producing state in the US (behind Washington State and just ahead of Idaho).

Here is your hops education.

Hops are a flower. So, why are there hops in beer? There is a long, complicated answer about beer headiness and the favorable environment hops created for brewers yeast as well as acidity and antibiotic properties (Read more here if you are interested). The short answer is hops give beer a unique taste and aroma.

Hops grow on guy wires between poles 20 feet in the air and are grown in a relatively packed space. In fact "A one-acre, high density hop plantation can easily contain 75-85 poles, 1200 plants, and cost $10,000 or more to establish." It is also a labor intensive crop. "Currently there are no mechanized implements for hop cultivation or harvest. Hand weeding and hand harvesting are the only reliable tools. Harvest is by far the most labor intensive, requiring up to 30 minutes for a single person to pick a bine (the woody vine they grown on) clean." (Source)

Hops are in the Cannibis genus (yup, same family as marijuana) so they have to be harvested in long sleeves and protective clothing because they have an irritating effect on the skin. The crew I saw were feeding the cut bines into a machines to remove the flowers. Despite the warm September weather in Oregon, they were in long sleeves, hats and gloves. This picture shows the bines being cut from the wires.

While some brewers use whole, wet hops from the bine, most are dried and used in a pelletized form. These hops will be taken from the bines, dried and become yummy beer - the only real commercial use for hops.

Great, now I am thirsty!


Wordless Wednesday 2-27-2013

My niece Emily staying warm for winter.


"Daddy daughter" dance

My dad had the chance to take my niece Emily to the YMCA's Daddy Daughter dance. So, I guess that makes it a granddaddy granddaughter dance.

Either way, they were adorable! I think my dad was more excited than my niece. She is 4 years old so the highlight was getting to ride in grandpa's car. And, of course, the corsage.

Check out these melt-your-heart photos.



Books Books and More Books

I love books.
I love to be around books.
This list looks like 30 vacations I would want to take.

So, I was delighted to find that living in Corvallis brings me near a few very good places to find cheap books. Of course, I already talked about Powell's when I visited there during Spring Break 2011. You cannot beat Powell's for selection but I can beat them on price.

There is a book sale at the Philomath Rodeo grounds in the fall and there is yesterday's sale at the Benton County Fairgrounds. As a "Friend of the Library" I got to enter at 4 when the public cannot enter until 6. I came home with 14 new books in about an hour and for under $30. Becoming a Friend is only $10 and helps support the local library. Yes, please!

This is my second time going to one of these and here are a few tips: 1) You have to come with a list. 2) Bring something to haul your load. Some people bring boxes or dolly carts. This time I borrowed a reusable shopping bag from my friend who drove! Arrive early for the best selection but know that by the end they are almost free. We went to the special opening yesterday and paperbacks were $2. By Sunday, you can fill an entire box and whatever fits is $5. Check out my reading list for the items that were bought for the "TO READ" shelf.

I am getting in some good practice before the sale in Eugene in April. It is a bit larger.

Besides book sales, I visit St.Vinnie's in Albany for their used book selection. This is a Thrift Store that is connected with Catholic ministries. The fact that it is categorized by author and subject, and that books are only $2 means that I can go with a list and find what I want. And, the money goes to charity.

I think I need to go buy another book shelf!