YAKIMA, Wash. — Yakima Chief Hops, a leading global hop supplier, believes it made the first U.S. export of fresh hops outside North America this fall.
Mike Geottl, company CEO, and Jim Lambert, the company’s Asia sales representative, developed the idea of exporting fresh hops overseas and decided South Korea would be best to try first.
A Korean distributor connected Lambert with three interested craft brewers in Seoul who attended the company’s hop and brew school in Yakima, in August. They watched fresh hops being harvested and decided they wanted some.
Yakima Chief Hops delivered 720 pounds of Mosaic and Ahtanum aroma hops from Perrault Farms in Toppenish to the Seoul brewers within 36 hours of harvest, said Cait Schut, YCH spokeswoman.
The Mosaic was harvested and shipped on Sept. 16. The Ahtanum was harvested and shipped on Sept. 23.
“This is the first time YCH has exported fresh hops outside of North America and I would highly doubt there have been others,” Schut said.
The hops had to be delivered at controlled temperatures and it’s hard to know ahead of time the exact date when growers need to harvest, she said.
“So it’s a huge logistical challenge for the brewers to be ready whenever the fresh hops are ready,” Schut said.
It also took advance coordination with government export inspectors in the U.S. and Korean custom inspectors, she said.
Overseas companies more typically buy whole leaf hops, hop pellets or hop extract after kiln drying. Those methods take less space, don’t have to be temperature controlled and don’t have to be delivered within 36 hours of harvest.
The benefit of fresh hops is hops in their purest form for fresher flavor and aromas unique to every season to make for interesting brews, Schut said.
“It’s not necessarily a big money maker because of shipping. It’s more a tribute to our growers and for us being a grower-owned company we feel it’s important to offer this type of product to brewers,” Schut said. “We may offer it in Taiwan and Japan next year.”
About half of YCH’s non-fresh production is exported outside of North America.
The three Seoul brewers and their brews are: Amazing Brewery, making Yakima Express; Seoul Brewery, Salinger Rye IPA; and Playground Brewery, Big and Certain Hoppiness, a double IPA. They released their brews the last week of October.