Alaska Air Cargo pulls off sky high beer hop

Fresh hops transported by Alaska Air Cargo. Photo: Alaska Air Cargo

Alaska Air Cargo said it has delivered the industry’s first and biggest fresh hops run to breweries in Maui and Anchorage within 24 hours of harvest.

The airline delivered more than 1,200 pounds of fresh hops – made from fresh-plucked, undried hops that are typically rushed straight from the fields to the breweries – to Maui Brewing Co. in Hawaii and 49th State Brewing in Alaska.

“This is a potential game-changer for the craft beer industry and farm-to-glass collaboration at its finest,” said Adam Drouhard, cargo managing director for Alaska Airlines, noting that Washington state grows almost three-quarters of the overall US hop crop.

“This puts a Northwest agricultural product in places that don’t normally get it. With the size and scope we have in Seattle, we are really positioned to own this.”

Jake Spotts, postal affairs manager on Alaska’s cargo team aimed to find a way to ship fresh hops to breweries outside the Northwest to leverage Alaska’s experience in transporting perishables.

The brewers at Bale Breaker Brewing, Maui Brewing Co. and 49th State worked together on beer recipes to highlight the hops’ fresh flavour and coordinated logistics with the Alaska Air Cargo team and Yakima Chief Hops, a grower-owned organisation that distributes hops for more than 50 farms across northwest US.

“Scalability of shipping fresh hops has really been the challenge to overcome because you only have about 24 hours from harvest before the hops start to degrade,” said Bryan Pierce, chief sales and marketing officer for Yakima Chief Hops.

To keep the hops fresh throughout their journey, the harvest was timed so that the just-picked hops could be bagged onsite at Loftus Ranches, one of Yakima’s longest running family-owned hop farms and the site of Bale Breaker Brewing.  

From there, they were loaded into refrigerated trucks and driven to the Alaska Air Cargo offices at Sea-Tac International Airport just in time to load onto the aircraft. More than 1,200 pounds of hops were shipped nonstop to the brewers.

On Maui and in Anchorage, the brewers were ready to add the fresh hops to the “boil” – the first stage in beer – as soon as they arrived.

“When we added the fresh hops, it smelled amazing!” said Kim Brisson-Lutz, Maui Brewing Co.’s ice president of operations. “Making beer is a culinary art, and we’re all about making these ingredients really shine.”

“Using Alaska Air Cargo, we can guarantee the supply chain all the way from field to the kettle,” said David McCarthy, co-founder of 49th State Brewing. “Aficionados of beer are really looking for this flavor, and we’re excited we can now make the freshest beer in Anchorage and the whole Alaska market.”

Alaska Air Cargo makes beary special flight

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Rebecca Jeffrey

Rebecca Jeffrey
New to aviation journalism, I joined Air Cargo News in late 2021 as deputy editor. I previously worked for Mercator Media’s six maritime sector magazines as a reporter, heading up news for Port Strategy. Prior to this, I was editor for Recruitment International (now TALiNT International). Contact me on: [email protected]