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Pint Defiance, a Tacoma specialty bottle shop and tap room. Hundreds of beers, ciders and meads from around the world.

10 on tap.
Cider and gluten free.
Fill your growler.
Feel free to bring your own food.


2049 Mildred St. West, Tacoma, WA 98466
 Tues - Sat: 11:00 AM–11:00 PM / Sun & Mon: 11:00 AM–10:00 PM




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Pint Defiance Goes to Hop School

on Mon, 09/17/2012 - 01:22

Hi everyone, R.J. here. You may not have seen me around Pint Defiance this last week and that is because I've gone back to school. Specifically Hopunion's annual Hop & Brew School. This is the 10th year they've put this on but my first opportunity to attend. I've dabbled in homebrewing over the past two years and wanted to learn more about that magical ingredient that goes into the beer that we all love, especially the NW-style ales we cherish here at Pint Defiance.

A little background on Hopunion: Hopunion, LLC is the largest supplier of hops to the craft and homebrewing industries. They are farmer-owned and operate out of Yakima, WA, the "fertile crescent" of hops. The area provides 77% of all the hops used in the United States and 25% of the world's, a fact which brings not a small tinge of pride to this native Washingtonian. And Hopunion is the largest supplier with an impressive roster of 10 growers from WA and OR providing nearly 40 different domestic hop varieties to craft breweries and homebrewers. They also make available a wide variety of imported hops. Okay, enough numbers.

The two-day school is held on their property. They cleared out a space in their production facility during harvest time, which really showed how dedicated they are to maintaining a relationship with the brewing community. Because of the wide variety of topics covered and the packed agenda, class started at 8 a.m. sharp, and we were staying an hour outside of Yakima, which meant we had to get up really early (just like real school!). 

We started with a tour of the facility including the offices. We got to see their small brewery they use to test out new strains of hops, the lab where they dissect them, and the plant where they pelletize and package them. It was amazing to see the care that went into making sure the highest quality product got to the brewer in the freshest form possible. Hopunion is where quite a few of your favorite breweries go to get their hops, including Full Sail, New Belgium, Deschutes, Gigantic, and many others. Chances are, if the bottle you are grabbing from our cooler is from the West Coast, then they got their hops from here. The highlight of the tour was getting to stand at the same hop selection table used by brewers from all over the world.

The first day's agenda included talks with topics as wide ranging as The State of the Homebrewing Industry, Malt Production, How to Brew an IPA, and Brewing with Fresh (or "Green"/"Wet") Hops. That last one is a trend we expect to see exponential growth in; you'll be seeing more fresh hop ales on our shelves very shortly. It was inspiring to see the passion that everyone had. I got a chance to meet a lot of homebrewers from all over and share a love of great beers, which is what we strive to do every day at Pint Defiance. Hopefully, we'll see a few of their bottles on our shelves in the future.

The 2nd day of Hop School was spent out on the farm. We visited B.T. Loftus Ranch to see the harvesting and processing of the hop bines. It was humbling to see the amount of work that goes on during harvest. Crews work day and night to make sure to pick the cones at the peak of their ripeness, and each varietal ripens at different intervals. Every delicious ounce of beer we drink starts here, and after observing the process I can say that going forward I'll appreciate that pint of IPA even more.

Hop School afforded an opportunity to get hands on with something that many of us may take for granted. The hops get touched by a lot of hands (not literally) before it reaches our glasses and so much great care is taken in order to provide us—the beer consuming public—with the best product possible. So come in, grab a pint, and taste the hard work for yourself. Just ask, and I'll be more than happy to talk your ear off about the whole experience. But I leave you with a few more pics:

Here I am with the President & CEO of Hopunion, Don Bryant in their whole-leaf hop storage. The smell in the warehouse was intoxicating. 

Hopunion has their own (employees only) taproom. Only three taps compared to our 10, but it was still nice.

Here is their game room. You'll notice that the walls are covered in autographs from brewers who have come through there.

Quality Control is done at every stage of the process. This is a hop cake (yum!) being pulled from a bale just delivered from one of the farms.

This is Van Havig, founder and co-owner of Portland's very own Gigantic Brewing Co. We're pretty much best friends now. Check out his great brews in our cooler, second door from the left: Axes of Evil Pale Ale, The City Never Sleeps Saison, and Gigantic IPA. He told me what brews we will see from them in the near future, but I think I'm supposed to keep it a secret.

Comparing OR hops to their WA counterparts.

Waking the production line with Patrick Smith, a 3rd-generation hop farmer at B.T. Loftus Ranches.

Everyone knows the best hops are at the bottom.