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A High Tide has me dehydrated!

It’s the first week of September which means we’re hard at work in the brewery stuffing nearly all of our tanks full of High Tide Fresh Hop IPA. This is the 4th year we have produced High Tide at Port Brewing in San Marcos and it remains one of our best selling seasonal beers for the year. In our first year, we produced one 30 bbl batch of the beer. The next year, we tripled that number and kicked out 90 bbls of the beer. Last year, we jumped up to 210 bbls of production. This year has us scurrying around the brewery to produce 270 bbls of this resiny nectar.

I for one am exhausted as it’s been brutally hot in the brewery this week and my shift in the brewhouse has started at 6AM the last two days. To give you an idea of the production for this beer, we have to go back to August when we contacted Hop Union our purveyor and let them know that we would be needing 1000 lbs of Fresh Centennial hops for this week and another 600 lbs of Fresh Simcoe hops for next week and the dry hopping side of the brew. Most brewers choose to attack the fresh hop brewing schedule with Fresh Hops solely in the boil kettle. Not us. Nope, we choose to beat ourselves up and create scheduling nightmares with not one but two sets of hops and deliveries.

This hasn’t been an issue for us until this year. Typical crop schedules for picking generally allow us to harvest the Centennial Hops about one week sooner than the Simcoe hops and all is well in our world. Except, this year it has been unseasonably warm in Yakima, WA and the Centennial Hops were actually ready last week. This meant that we had to skip the Centennial Flowers this year and sub with Cascade Fresh Flowers. This isn’t a major bummer in my book as Centennial and Cascade share some of the closest properties of Domestic hops in my opinion. And since some of my favorite beers feature these two hops in tandem, something just seems okay about this substitution.

Our Fresh Cascades were picked on Tuesday in the AM and placed into garbage bags (30 lbs each) before being loaded into a refrigerated Semi Trailor and sent from Yakima, WA to San Marcos. The first brew was mashed in by Ryan (working his first of two overnight shifts) at 4 AM on Thursday morning. It’s now 1:30 PM on Friday and we have successfully knocked out (sent to the fermenter) the first 6 batches of beer while # 7 is boiling away under Mike’s watch. My shift ended at noon. Most likely, we’ll be brewing until about 4 AM Saturday morning to get all of these batches in the tanks as quickly as we can.

This is very important for two reasons. First, the fresh hops start degrading and losing moisture the moment they leave the farms. We’re trying to trap as much of this goodness as possible so we brew round the clock as fast as we can to keep them well, uh Fresh! Secondly, I just got an email from Hop Union that Buddy (our intrepid trailer hauling Fresh Hop dude) has left the dock and is scheduled to be here on Monday (yes Labor Day). This means that the beers we’re currently still brewing need to be done fermenting as close to Tuesday as possible so that we can dry hop them with the Fresh Simcoe hops that just recently left Yakima, WA.

So to recap, the Centennials aren’t here as we weren’t ready. The Cascades showed up a day later than we really wanted them too and the Simcoes are already on the road for Dry hopping even though three batches of beer remain and have yet to hit the tank. Well, that pretty much neatly sums it up. Fresh hop brewing is a pain in the ass. Sure, it’s one of our favorite beers around here and you can bet your ass that we’ll drink more than our fair share. But given that we’re making 270 bbls of this beer in less than 48 hours on a 30 bbl system, we won’t be looking for sympathy. More likely just a ride home in two fridays from now when we tap that first keg as we drink away our aches and pains.

(Special thanks to Maureen and Sydney for bringing me lunch today. It was the first time I sat down all day and it felt good- really good).

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