By Marguerite Washut, BBBC Marketing & Events Coordinator
Harvest is here! Late-August kicks off hop harvest, which is an exciting and bustling time here in the Yakima valley. Tourism is at its all-time peak with thick international accents flowing through the local watering holes, tractors are at full speed ahead, and Fresh Hop Ale Festival is right around the corner. But there’s another thing that harvest brings to the valley – a heavy cloud of aroma that is undeniable and frankly unavoidable. To cut to the chase – it smells exactly like weed (or so I’ve heard – hi, mom!).
I distinctly remember my first harvest in Yakima. I was walking into work and smelled a suspicious smell. I rushed into my boss’ office and exclaimed, “Either a skunk is dead in our lobby or someone just hotboxed it!”
She went to investigate and returned with a “bless your heart” grin on her face and informed me that it was just the beautiful aroma of fresh hops. Dumbfounded yet intrigued, but also equally wanting to spare myself from further embarrassment, I did some investigating of my own.
Turns out hops (AKA Humulus Lupulus) are cousins to the hemp (AKA Cannabis) flower under the small family of flowering plants called Cannabaceae. Other than sharing an evolutionary origin and a strong aroma and flavor, the two differ in the way they grow. Humulus Lupulus plants are twining herbs which rely on the assistance of a bine to help reach sunlight for nourishment to grow, whereas, cannabis herbs grow erect, directly from the soil due to having a stronger supportive tissue. Conversely, both plants are pollinated by the wind, making the windy Yakima valley the perfect haven for the two to thrive.
But what makes them smell so strongly, you ask? Both plants contain essential oils which are so easily vaporizable that we can identify their presence or absence by simply using our noses. Thus, making hops the perfect ingredient to help balance the overall flavor profile of a nice, cold beer.
The more you know! So next time you look at the calendar to plan your trip to Yakima, I highly recommend coming during this once-a-year, one-month-long sensory experience. Your mind will be blown (pun intended).
Girl Meets Hops: A monthly column about an amateur's quest to find out what's behind the buzz.
Posted August 28, 2019