Virginia’s Blue Mountain Brewery Turns Into “Little Yakima”

By Andy Sparhawk

For many craft brewers, August is the beginning of hop harvest season. While many brewers mark their calendar during this time to make an annual pilgrimage to the Pacific Northwest to stake their claim on choice cuts of the region’s annual crop, many craft brewers all over the country have devoted portion of their brewery grounds to growing their own hops for small batch, fresh hop beers and other limited beer projects. Jessica Bullard of Virginia’s Blue Mountain Brewery updated us on their hop crop at both brewery properties. Who says theirs no terrior in beer?

With one of the wettest years on record in Virginia, we’ve wrapped up the most successful hop harvest at Blue Mountain Brewery that we’ve had in our seven years as hop growers. The brewery’s modest 1/3 acre of Cascade hops yielded almost 600 pounds this year. We were assisted in the harvest by about 100 community volunteers who come together each August to celebrate the harvest with us and help pick the hops. As is tradition, the first 150 pounds were used directly in our award-winning Blue Reserve American-Belgo ale.

At our second location, Blue Mountain Barrel House, this year’s hop harvest included a community festival. The 1/2 acre of Cascade hops is predicted to yield over 400 pounds, an astounding amount as these are first-year hops. We’ve created an oast house onsite at the Barrel House that is currently drying the majority of the Afton harvest and will soon be drying the Barrel House harvest. The oast house is also being used to dry hops from the dozen farmers who are part of the Old Dominion Hop Cooperative, which Blue Mountain helped found.

Andy Sparhawk, the Brewers Association's craft beer program coordinator, is a Certified Cicerone® and BJCP Beer Judge. He lives in Arvada, Colorado where he is a homebrewer and avid craft beer enthusiast. On occasion, Andy is inspired to write on his experiences with craft beer, and if they are not too ridiculous, you might see the results here on CraftBeer.com.

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