My curiosity with Hops actually did not start from beer. In fact, I was on a brewery hopping bike ride in Anaheim and stopped at a particular brewery that had offered a hop flavored hard candy. I was surprised at how much I liked it and was also then very intrigued with hops. My second encounter with a hops flavored product that I really enjoyed happened at a culinary event. Rich Elixirs offered a tasting of their grapefruit hops flavored kombucha. These two experiences I had with hops got me started into some research and of course a desire to make a hot sauce with the beautiful aroma of hops. I had always associated it more with beer, which in some of the older methods of processing would become bitter. These two experiences opened me up to the aroma of hops without that associated bitterness.

Since that time I have done some research on hops regarding its characteristics, methods of use, history, and new discoveries. I have some knowledge of Chinese medicine regarding tinctures and uses of herbs. I am fortunate that when I first went to learn about hops I was recommended O’Shea Brewing Company located in Laguna Niguel.  The staff gave me the perfect help in my research. He happened to be a part of the culinary industry for years and he himself had made a hops hot sauce and educated me on a couple of different methods and uses of the hops flowers and pellets. He showed me the differences between varieties and gave great recommendations. I went home and decided to play with the pellets that I had purchased and made simple water extractions to test them out. I further read about constituents in hops and where the bitters come from and that brewers nowadays are using a method called dry hopping to achieve maximum flavor without having such intense bitterness. The beer industry is so large so there have been many legitimate studies for a number of hops used to see if there is a maximum saturation of hops flavor a beer can achieve. All in all the process has been quite educational and that makes me even more excited to create a hops hot sauce.

Every year in July I go to the Columbia River Gorge in Oregon and I spend at least a week there. I had read that the Yakima Valley in Washington grows about 80% of the nation’s hops and also many growers ship worldwide. The Gorge is only about a two-hour drive from the Yakima Valley. Again, I am fortunate that I have friends in the beer industry who work for Sierra Nevada Brewing Company and they kindly asked about which growers to check out.  In Oregon, there is the Willamette Valley where some great hops farmers are who follow sustainable organic growing methods. Returning in September, hops harvest season, to pick up some fresh hops direct from the farm and finally get creating a hot sauce that I am so much looking forward to! This has to be done within 24 hours of harvesting as the hops flowers do not retain their moisture content for very long. So you can see that this hot sauce is a very special craft product.

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