Drying

An entire season’s harvest can be ruined in only a few hours during drying. Gorst Valley Hops has designed custom drying schedules for each grower’s oast. On farm drying must be micromanaged due to the high degree of weather and site variability. Gorst Valley hops are dried under ambient temperatures; no heat is added to speed up the drying process. Heat and hops are enemies. Heat drives off the aromatic oils and causes pre-mature resin oxidation. Many brewers comment that Gorst Valley hops are very aromatic. We tell them “we don’t rush Mother Nature.” Once the hops are dried to the appropriate moisture content they travel to the processing center.

Quality Analysis

Quality assurance testing is the centerpiece of the entire processing system. Utilizing the sampling and testing protocols from the American Society of Brewing Chemists and the USDA, Gorst Valley ensures only the best quality flowers are selected for processing. We have very low thresholds for wind and harvest damage, drying imperfections, and other agricultural defects.

Once the hops pass the physical quality exam they are tested for alpha and beta acids as well as oil content. Any lots that fall outside of acceptable ranges are rejected. The accepted lots are shipped to cold storage until all lots of any single variety are received and ready for pelletizing.

The milling stage is comprised of a size reduction step (hammer-milling) and a densification step (pelletizing).

Milling

The milling stage is comprised of a size reduction step (hammer-milling) and a densification step (pelletizing). This stage is extremely critical to hop pellet quality as temperature and speed must be adjusted constantly to avoid scorching, oxidation, discoloring, etc. Gorst Valley safeguards against these hazards by milling at low speeds and injecting liquid nitrogen to keep the mill temperatures very low. After the pellets are formed they are allowed to rest under nitrogen until they are firm enough to package.

Cured hop pellets are vacuum packaged in gas-barrier bags to prevent oxidation.

Packaging

Cured hop pellets are vacuum packaged in gas-barrier bags to prevent oxidation. Pellets are precisely weighed into specialty barrier bags before the air in the bag is completely evacuated. The vacuum is stopped and nitrogen is flooded into the bag to displace any remaining ambient air/oxygen. Another vacuum removes the nitrogen to create a dense block of pellets. Heat impulse bars fuse the bag material to create an impermeable seal. The bag is labeled with specific tracking information so any concerns by the brewer can be traced directly back to the fields in which they were grown. The hops are then boxed and placed in cold storage until sold. Typically the entire process takes less than 2 weeks.