If beer could only flow,
flow freely from the sky as golden rays.
Amber as the sunset,
Black, tan as the earth.
From silver kegs and cans,
It could only flow,
All things considered, hops are an important part of brewing beer. The fragrant strands of green flowers are a possible boon for western slope farmers, thanks to suitable growing conditions and demand from Colorado brew masters.
"Well, we try to get our hops local. Seasonally it's really easy, because fresh hops, being that we're in this fertile valley, we can drive to a hop farm and pick the hops and put 'em in the beer,” said Mike King, of Revolution Brewing, Paonia, Colo.
The malt that King uses to brew is ground by him on a stationary bicycle modified for that sole purpose.
“So rather trying to find a 3 to 4 thousand dollar motor for grinding, uh, I decided that I should do it. And, it was a great idea. It's a, a fitness program for the brewery," said King.
Like King, Danny Wilson at the Palisade Brewing Company uses fresh, Colorado hops, but not as much he uses pelletized versions from outside the state.
“Mostly pelletized hops. Ah, most of our inventory comes from the Northwest. Up in Yakima or Willamette Valley. I will get a few varieties from Germany or England as well. We did one batch of fresh hops, IPA this year. Uh, it's called uh, Opus Alphadite," said Wilson.
As is the case with many farmers this year, the hops are being harvested early this year.
"We're probably at least two weeks to 15 days at least, ahead of last year. On the hops, and it's pretty much that way all across the valley with everybody's,” said David Pinnt, Palisade Organic Hops Farm.
And while pelletizing the hops would allow brewers to work on a regimented schedule, the combination of capital investment with the willingness of AC Golden to buy bales of whole leaf hops means that Colorado hops will be simply that. Colorado.
There are worse places for it, with brewers filling the gaps between Denver and far flung corners of the mountainous state.
"I think once we uh, are actually able to say yeah, we're going to be full on pelletizing I think it's just going to get wide open at that point. That's what I'm hoping for. You know what I mean. We gotta get the quality and be able to do this thing," said Ron Munger, Misty Mountain Hop Farm in Olathe.
"And we have the liberty of uh, a because we brew so much more often. That, sure. If someone rolls in with some fresh hops next week, we'll figure out a way to make an IPA with 'em for sure," said King.
Misty Mountain Hop Farm, taken from the Led Zeppelin song, is located in Olathe, Colo. The Pinnt Family owns and operates the Palisade Organic Hops Farm, www.palisadeorganichops.com, not far away from the Palisade Brewing Company, www.palisadebrewingcompany.com. Revolution Brewing, www.revolution-brewing.com, is based out of Paonia.
Connect with and follow photojournalist David L. Yost online at www.dlyost.com.