We read in the Slow Food Urban August newsletter that fresh hops were available to be picked locally at Star B Ranch. Yesterday, we headed out to their location near Ramona to get us some.
This is their second season of growing hops, and they have a nice crop of Cascade, Nugget and some Willamette. Here are Cascade hop flowers on the vine:
It smelled fantastic walking up and down the rows of vines, picking flower after flower. It took us about half an hour to bag a half pound of Nugget and two thirds of a pound of Cascade. They charged $20 per pound (although others have reported lower prices - your mileage may vary).
While we were there for the hops, Star B's primary business is raising Bison. They were scattered all around the hop vines:
Star B unfortunately does not directly sell their own meat. When asked why, the response was similar to what you hear from a lot of small, local producers - USDA regulations and the lack of a local slaughtering option make it impractical. The do sell Bison meat at the ranch, though, and despite the fact that it is processed in Wisconsin we decided to pick up a pound of ground meat:
Since the ranch was only a few miles outside of Santa Ysabel, it was, of course, imperative that we make a stop at Dudley's Bakery:
Ever since I first moved to San Diego, I've been going to Dudley's whenever I'm in the area - usually on route to Borrego. For me, Dudley's is all about their Jalepeño bread.
Very good stuff. I can happily eat it plain, but it is even better lightly toasted with a slather of butter. Oh, and it makes a killer Egg-In-Toast... If you don't want to trek out to Santa Ysabel, several places in town carry Dudley's bread. Henry's often has it.
But, back to the hops. After driving back home, our car redolent with hop, we inspected our haul:
The Cascade is in front and the Nugget in the back. They look pretty much the same, but the Nugget flowers were noticeably denser.
We started brewing a fresh-hop IPA as soon as we got home - with the first hops hitting the wort a scant five hours or so after we picked them. The beer is happily fermenting away as I write this. We'll post an update once it is ready.
Update: Here is our post with the wet hop IPA recipe.
Star B Ranch 288428 Hwy 78 Ramona, CA 92065 (760) 789-8155 Dudley's Bakery 30218 Highway 78 (Julian Road) Santa Ysabel, CA 92070 (760) 765-0488