The Yakima Valley of Washington State is notably one of the great hop producing regions in the world. Its unique mix of climate, soil and latitude translates into the optimal growing environment for hops. In this valley, the grower/owners of Yakima Chief farm 20% of the hop acreage in the United States.
Yakima Chief’s Best Practices Program is a requirement for all grower/owners. This program enables growers to share information in every area of hop growing – establishing a hop yard, plant protection, harvesting, drying, baling and storage. Adherence to this program helps us to keep our quality commitment to the brewing industry and reduce costs, through grower volume group buying, for both growers and brewers. Yakima Chief growers are required to attend continuing studies on brewing, hop biology and agronomy. Our understanding of the brewer’s business enables us to form strong partnerships with brewers all over the world.
Environmentally-sensitive Plant Management – laboratory personnel work closely with our growers to implement biological and chemical programs that limit pesticide usage, protect the land and assure a consistent supply of quality hops for the future. Various non-chemical agronomic techniques have been developed by Yakima Chief to enhance soil properties and plant growth.
On-premise laboratory facilities test dry matter by the toluene distillation method. This allows each hop variety to be harvested at the peak of aroma and maturity.
Better field mechanization with top and bottom cutters reduces physical handling of hop vines, thereby protecting the hop cone. Gentle picking, using reduced machine speeds, allows cones to be removed intact. Lupulin glands are not ruptured, there is less oxidation and cone integrity is preserved.
Post-harvest processing – improved kiln drying provides uniform heating and reduces moisture pockets, resulting in less oxidation and a more consistent product.
Ambient cooling after drying and just before baling stabilizes moisture and reduces hot spots in the baling process. This decreases oxidation, maintains high quality and minimizes the need for re-baling – another cost containment which results in competitive pricing.
Baling – After ambient cooling, the hops are promptly baled and shipped to Yakima Chief warehouses for testing and storage, prior to processing.