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More than 1,200 pounds of fresh hops were shipped via Alaska Air Cargo to Maui and Anchorage within 24 hours of harvest in Central Washington. (Photos: Alaska Air Cargo | Ingrid Barrentine)

Alaska Air Cargo Delivers Fresh Hop to Alaska and Hawaii

Alaska Airlines, Yakima Chief Hops and Bale Breaker Brewing Company are teaming up to deliver fresh hop harvests to Hawaii and Alaska. The farm-to-kettle operation will bring three collaboration beers on tap at select Alaska Lounges.

Traditionally, breweries can only use dried hop pellets to add flavor to beers because hops are extremely perishable. However, breweries in the Pacific Northwest have the opportunity to brew with fresh hops and add different floral notes to their beers each harvesting season since the region accounts for three-quarters of the US’s hop production. Hops needed to reach the brewing kettle within 24 hours of harvesting. Therefore fresh hop beers have largely been a regional delicacy until now.

The “Fresh Hops Fly” Idea

The fresh hop, in front of an Alaska Airlines plane. (Photo: Alaska Air Cargo)

According to Alaska Air Cargo, Jake Spotts, the airline’s postal affairs manager and a beer enthusiast, wanted to leverage the company’s expertise in shipping perishable products like fresh Alaskan seafood to ship fresh hops to breweries outside the Northwest. It is something that no other US airline has done on a commercial scale. 

The team has a lot of experience in shipping fresh produce on time. The cargo company provides seamless transits and cold-chain support on dedicated cargo planes and passenger plane belly cargoes for Alaskan seafood such as halibut and geoduck. Most notably, the Seattle-based airline even holds annual cooking competitions upon first delivery of the season’s salmon crop. 

Once the team determined it had the expertise, Spotts and Drouhard, the managing director of Alaska Air Cargo, reached out to one of Spotts’s favorite breweries, Bale Breaker Brewing Company. The parties hit it off and started working on the logistics. 

Farm-to-Kettle Logistics

The fresh hops were shipped the same day they were harvested. (Photo: Alaska Air Cargo)

Bale Breaker reached out to Maui Brewing Co. in Hawaii and 49th State Brewing in Alaska. The brewers worked on beer recipes to highlight the hops’ fresh flavor and coordinated logistics with the Alaska Air Cargo team and Yakima Chief Hops, one of the largest hop distributors.

The harvest was timed so the hops could be bagged onsite at the farm immediately after picking to keep the hops as fresh as possible throughout the shipment. 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. 

The team shipped more than 1,200 lbs of fresh hops non-stop to the brewers. “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 YCH.

The co-owner of Bale Breaker has also been racking up some frequent traveler miles for this collaboration. He’s been personally traveling to the breweries in Hawaii and Alaska to assist in brewing their first-ever fresh hop beers.

The Beers

In addition to the brewer’s taproom and distribution channels, travelers can look for these seasonal delights in Alaska Lounges at select airports.

You can also have a taste of the Alaska Lounge at the comfort of your home. (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Fangzhong Guo)

Bale Breaker will have two beers on draft at Alaska Lounges in Sea-Tac International Airport at the Alaska Lounge in Portland International Airport. The Homegrown fresh hop IPA will feature citrusy, blueberry, pine resin, and fresh-cut grass flavors, while the Citra Slicker Wet Hop IPA will focus on citrusy and floral tasting notes.

Freshial Delivery Hazy Fresh Hop IPA features plane-themed packaging. (Photo: 49th State Brewing)

Freshial Delivery Hazy Fresh Hop IPA from 49th State Brewing will be available at the Alaska Lounge in Anchorage International Airport. While the brewer did not list official tasting notes on the website, one can expect floral and tropical fruit flavors for the type.

Maui Brewing Co named their beer Hop Cargo Fresh Hop IPA, which will only be available on draft at the Alaska Lounge in Sea-Tac, North Satellite. The style is similar to that of the Homegrown IPA. All beers are on tap now, remember to enjoy the hoppiest time of the year by grabbing a pint of fresh hop beer the next time you swing by Alaska Lounge.


  • Fangzhong Guo

    Fangzhong grew up near an OEM airport in northeastern China, where he developed his enthusiasm for aviation. Taking upon his passion, he's now working as an aircraft interior design engineer. Besides working in the aerospace industry, Fangzhong enjoys trying out different types of airplanes and seeing how airplane interiors have evolved. So far, he's flown on over 80 types of aircraft. He also planespots in his spare time. His rarest catches included the 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft and AN-225.

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