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Michigan hop harvest takes center stage in these two unique beer tours

I’ve been watching my hop vines daily as the hop harvest for this year approaches. Last week, Jesse Sensenig at Goshen Brewing Company picked his first hops of the season at Hootenanny Hops in Plymouth, Ind. This means that the first fresh hop beers are right around the corner.

Of the four main ingredients in craft beer, humulus lupulus (or hops) has the largest following amongst beer geeks. West Michigan Beer Tours is again teaming up with Bonnie and Jeff Steinman co-founders and owners of Hop Head Farms in Hickory Corners, Mich., for a rare glimpse into the hectic hop harvest season of late August and early September.

Hop Head Farms in Hickory Corners, Mich., grows and harvests hops used in craft beers across Michigan. (Photo Supplied/West Michigan Beer Tours)
Hop Head Farms in Hickory Corners, Mich., grows and harvests hops used in craft beers across Michigan. (Photo Supplied/West Michigan Beer Tours

There are two tours. The Hop Harvest Beer Tour on Aug. 27 will be based out of Grand Rapids, while the Sept. 3 tour will be based out of Kalamazoo. The tours will escort groups to Hop Head Farms outside of Kalamazoo that provides hops for breweries all over the country and internationally. Participants will tour the fields, view the processing equipment, and learn about many hop varietals. Several Michigan breweries will provide samples of their beer using hops grown right there at Hop Head Farms.

“This is a rare opportunity to get a look into what happens to bring our hops to harvest,” Hop Head Farms co-founder Bonnie Steinman said. “We do not offer public tours during harvest because of the sheer busyness of the time. We have only a few short weeks to get all of the hops down, picked and dried at their peak maturity. Our facility is the only of its kind in the United States, German engineered and chosen to handle our hops to result in the best end product.”

A couple of years ago, Sensenig and I ran into Bonnie and Jeff at Old Mill Brewpub in Plainwell, Mich., not too far from their farm. They were taking a much needed but short break from the busy harvest season. Jeff had been up until the early hours the morning before, and expected to be up late again that night processing hops that had come in from other Michigan hop farms.

After the farm visit, the bus will visit breweries that work closely with Hop Head Farms — Founders Brewing Co. and Walldorff Brewpub & Bistro (Aug. 27) and Territorial Brewing Co. and Tibbs Brewing Co. (Sept. 3), respectively.

Tickets for the tour are on sale now. They start at $75 and include samples or a pint at each location. Premium tickets are also available for both tours. For more information, follow the links below:

Aug. 27 Itinerary

Origination: JW Marriott Grand Rapids, noon-1 p.m.
Stop 1: Hop Head Farms, samples, tour, 2-3:30 p.m.
Stop 2: Walldorff Brewpub & Bistro, pint/samples, tour, 4-5 p.m.
Stop 3: Founders Brewing Co., tour, pint, 6-7:30 p.m.
Termination: JW Marriott, 7:45 p.m.

Sept. 3 Itinerary

Origination: Shakespeare’s Pub, noon-1 p.m.
Stop 1: Hop Head Farms, samples, tour, 1:30-3 p.m.
Stop 2: Territorial Brewing Co., meet-and-greet, samples, 3:30-4:30 p.m.
Stop 3: Tibbs Brewing Co., tour, samples or pint, 5-6 p.m.
Termination: Shakespeare’s Pub, 6:15 p.m.

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