By Abbie Digel Explorebigsky.com Editor

It’s sunrise, and friends of
Bozeman Brewing Company
have gathered in the
garage adjacent to the small
brewery. Every September
during the hop harvest,
bushels of the vibrant green
plant with succulent cones
fill wheelbarrows and beds
of pickups here. Some hops
are from the brewery’s own
gardens, and others are
from home gardens and
Montana State University.
The eclectic group is
sitting in a circle pulling
sticky stems from heaping
piles on the floor,
plucking plump green
hop cones, and separating
them by variety. These
beer fanatics, hop growers
and Bozone regulars will
likely be there all day.
Chairs scrape against the
cement floor, and laughter
rises from the group. As
the sun rises higher in the
sky, the number of pickers
grows.
“It’s a social experiment,”
said Todd Scott, owner of
the brewery. “We want
community members to
get to know the beer they
drink.” The Bozone’s
Hopfest has been going on
for the last five years.
The first year Bozone
brewed with fresh hops,
some of the team drove
to the Yakima Valley in
Washington state in search
of the freshest cones,
piled them in a truck, then
turned around and came
home. Once harvested, the
wet hops must be used in
the brew immediately, so
the crew drove fast, hitting
a deer on the way back,
delaying the amount of
time before they could
begin brewing. They only
had enough hops to brew
about eight barrels that first
year, but their customers’
response warranted growth.
Hops help create a beer’s
full and distinct flavor. The
moment at which the hops
go into brewing process is
part of the brewer’s craft:
Adding hops in the early
stages contribute to a beer’s
bitterness, adding them
later in the fermentation
process contributes more
flavor and aroma. Every
ingredient in beer adds to
its uniqueness and hops are
part of that puzzle.
Most breweries use dried
and packaged hop pellets
that resemble rabbit food,
crumble when touched, and
are stored for a year or more.
“It’s like buying dried basil
at the store, but instead we
are using the fresh basil
from the garden,” said Bill
Hyland, brewmaster at Bozone.
Sierra Nevada, a popular
California craft brewer,
pioneered fresh hop brews
starting in the late ‘90s with
its Harvest series. Since
then, fresh hop brews have
been popping up at craft
breweries around the country,
with Bozone following the trend.
There are benefits to growing
hops, Hyland says.
People plant them as decoration
or for privacy, since
they climb like vines up a
trellis or fencing.
Bozone Brewery uses hops
from Montana, Oregon,
Germany, England and
occasionally Argentina, but
still sources most from the
Yakima Valley, which Hyland
says is a “good growing
area with a longer growing season.”
“Growing hops is lowmaintenance:
Plant the rhizome, attach it to a
string, and watch it climb,”
Hyland said. The resilient,
tenacious plants need only
water and sunlight. It takes
two to three years for buds
to develop on the hop vine,
and this sticky, flower is the
object of a brewer’s desire.
It ’s tradition
The process of brewing
beer is similar to making
wine: The ingredients
come from the ground,
and the environment
surrounding them affects
their taste and smell.
Bozone’s 2011 brew
is called Terrior* (pronounced
“tare-wah”), a
name derived from the
French word for ‘land.’ In
the wine world, terrior
refers to the quality and
origin of the grapes, and
the same goes for hops.
For Hyland, it also refers
to the beer’s local components:
The ingredients are 90 percent Montana grown.
“Ages ago, that was the
only kind of brewing people
did. Ingredients came
from your own farm, right
outside your door,” Hyland
said. “In Europe it’s
still that way, but that’s
not the case in America,
where giant companies
control everything.”

Hops in Montana
Hop harvest in Montana lasts only a
few weeks in September. That’s a small
window for brewers, and it’s made
the industry grow slowly. But with so
many craft breweries here (Montana has
27) interest in hop cultivation is growing, Hyland says.
Since 2007, MSU plant sciences professor
Tom Blake has grown hops on 30
acres of MSU’s gardens. In spite of the
short growing season, the plant grows
well in the Gallatin Valley, he says.
Blake and his team grow 10 varieties,
mostly for demonstration.
In an effort to expand its local hop
sources—and its loyal community—
Bozone has given out hop rhizomes
to friends, hoping they’ll grow a crop
from that section of the plant’s root.
Community members have contributed
more bounty each year.
The Bozone team would also like
to see commercial hops grown in
Montana. A third-acre crop would
cost about $2,000 to set up with the
necessary poles, trellises, tractors and
labor, Blake said.
There’s a market, Hyland says:
“More brewers, both home and
retail, are starting to have small hop
productions.”
The brew
Brewing with hops is a labor of love,
Hyland says. Because Terrior is only
brewed once a year, Hyland pays special
attention to the process.
That afternoon, Hyland created the
recipe, while the pickers socialized
and sipped on Bozone beer.
“It’s ridiculous to dump all this stuff
into the kettle,” he says, referring to
the amount of time and effort brewing
this kind of beer involves.
But it’s clear he’s having fun.
“Conventional wisdom says to use
high alpha [bitter] acid content hops
first, because that’s the trend in
American beer right now,” Hyland
said. “The cascade hops will go in
last because of their excellent aroma.
That’s the bulk of the brew.”
Any brewing process involves adding
different varieties of hops at different
times during the fermentation and
boiling process, in order to conjure a
desired mesh of flavors. Every variety
has a unique taste, smell and texture,
so a perfectly timed recipe is key to a
great tasting beer, Hyland says.
When the brewing day is done,
Hyland climbs into the kettles to
clean out the remaining hop residue.
Usually pelletized hops are added to
a brew, which settle to the bottom
of the kettle and are easily separated.
This is a more effective process,
because the pellets don’t leave behind
a mess.
But Terrior is worth it. The beer is an
IPA with a lighter, fresher flavor.
“It’s a taste experience.”

*Terrior will be available again at Bozeman Brewing Company in fall 2012.

This story was first published in the winter 11/12 issue of Mountain Outlaw magazine.