“As craft brewers, hops are such an important part of what we do,” said Andy Farrell, Bell’s brewmaster. “We make a lot of hop-forward beers, and our relationship with growers in the Pacific Northwest is among some of the most important relationships we have in the industry.”
Hops are an agricultural product, and there are changes and challenges with each year’s crop. Going to visit growers and picking the exact rows of hops to be used in beers such Two Hearted and Hopslam ensures our beers live up to the quality they are known for.
And during hop selection, Farrell assesses a lot of Centennial, the one and only hope used to brew Two Hearted.
The process for selecting hops really hasn’t changed over the years. A team travels to farms, suppliers and broker facilities, meets with the growers and partners, checks out their process and then “rubs” hops to evaluate which rows will be best for Two Hearted. Farrell has been part of the team to build relationships over the years, and growers know what we are looking for when we brew Two Hearted.
Hops aren’t just hops. “We build our brands around specific varieties of hops. The hop industry does a fantastic job growing excellent hops.” There are differences in quality, yes, but certain brewers prefer their hops picked at different ripeness, which impacts flavors. “So, your preference as a brewer can vary based on where you like your hops inside that harvest window for that specific variety.”
Andy has been going out for more than 12 years, and the relationships he’s made in Oregon and the Yakima Valley are some of the strongest in the industry.
“We’ve always looked at it as one of the highest priorities of what we do at the brewery,” Andy said. “I wouldn’t spend two weeks every September if it wasn’t worth it,” referring to the beautiful weather in Michigan during that time.