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Hop Commodity

Inside the Idaho hop harvest

by and

According to most beer historians, hops were first cultivated by growers in the Hallertau region of Bavaria in southern Germany. Going back to at least the 11th century, hops were added to beer not only to preserve it, but enhance its flavor.

Improving on 1,000 years of tradition might seem like a fool's errand, but brewers have continued to experiment with hops, cross-breeding them into countless varieties to create the kaleidoscope of styles and tastes we enjoy today.

In Idaho, we're blessed with two distinct hop growing areas: in the colder north of the panhandle and the sunnier, drier climes of the south. Taken together, the Gem State's hop regions give it the third-highest hop yield in the nation.

During the hop harvest in late September, Boise Weekly accompanied Lance Chavez and Matt Bryant—head brewer and assistant brewer, respectively, at Boise Brewing—to Obendorf Farms in Parma, where they gathered the precious ingredient for their Mr. Freshy's Fresh Hop Ale.

The process of making a fresh hop ale is deceptively simple: pluck the hops from the bine (yes, that's spelled right) and drop them in the wort. The trick is doing it in as little time as possible to ensure maximum freshness. The resulting flavor is as fascinating as the process is picturesque.