Podcast Episode 263: Bale Breaker Brewmaster Kevin Smith Lives the Hop Life

Brewers and hop growers are more connected today than ever, but Bale Breaker—in the Yakima Valley town of Moxee—takes that proximity to a level rarely seen in beer. The brewery literally sits on the Loftus Ranch, in the middle of a hop field, with trellises and bines surrounding the production brewery and taproom. Trellises surround the taproom patio. Trellises stretch out from the parking lot. Hops are everywhere, so it’s no surprise that Bale Breaker focuses on hop-forward beers.

Brewmaster Kevin Smith started his brewing career on the other side of the Cascade Range, in Seattle, before returning to the family farm and joining with his sister and brother-in-law to launch the brewery. Through Bale Breaker, he’s been able to showcase a hop-forward identity that embraces the crop that he grew up with. Hoppy West Coast and hazy beers are the brewer’s forte, and in this episode, Smith stays focused on hops. He discusses:

  • building a new approach to West Coast IPA and pale ale
  • understanding the impact of cohumulone levels on bittering
  • creating unexpected hop blends with underutilized hops such as Loral
  • the sensory range driven by pick time in popular hop varieties, such as Citra and Mosaic
  • dry-hopping methods that maximize hop flavor and minimize vegetal matter
  • building a common sensory language in the brewing team
  • selecting and processing hops from the farm

And more.

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