“We order hops from Willamette Valley Hops, who is the distributor for Haas Hops for us ‘little guys.’ Virginia was chatting with the people from Willamette Valley/Haas at the Craft Brewers Conference in Nashville, and next thing you know, we have an invite up to their Hop Academy,” said Marty Mendiola, co-founder and brewmaster of the Carmel Mountain Ranch-based company.
“We have never been in hop fields, processing plants, and labs like we were then. It all was quite incredible. The hop fields are vast and they are so plump with hop cones. When you see hop plants here in San Diego, they are nice, but they are not nearly as large and packed with hops as in Yakima.”
Mendiola and Morrison toured the processing plant where hops are stripped, cleaned, kilned, cooled, and finally baled, before either being pelletized or shipped whole for breweries like Sierra Nevada.
The two also visited the lab where hop extracts are made, and marveled at the three-barrel brewery where they brew experimental beers to test various single hops (many experimental varieties) and combinations of hops.
“It’s an expensive brewery which essentially is like a lab; it’s as if they took the most sophisticated 100-barrel brewery and shrunk it down to three barrels. It’s very clean.”
And perhaps most importantly, they were able to test beers made with new, experimental hops, along with beers that utilized hop extracts in the boil to replace pellets and give a “cleaner, nicer bitterness.”
Back in San Diego, Second Chance is hoping they receive approval to use some of the exciting experimental hops they witnessed go through the process from bine to bale.