Expert Topic Yakima Brewer Kevin Quinn on a Changing Climate and Hop Farming

Climate change is on the mind of every farmer and grower in the Pacific Northwest these days. From the average temperature rising over two degrees over the last several decades, to wildfires, and unusual rain patterns, there is a lot to be thinking about and acting upon not to mitigate problems in the future.

Kevin Quinn of Bale Breaker Brewing in Washington’s Yakima Valley spoke with Beer Edge editor John Holl about this year’s harvest on Loftus Ranch, where the brewery is located, and how they are thinking about the future.

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Kevin Quinn: On the farm level, we’ve already started conservation efforts. We already do drip lines. We use less pesticides and insecticides and herbicides and stuff like that.

One of the largest solar panel installations that is privately owned is on Loftus Ranches on all the buildings there, so we have a lot of renewable energy.

For us brewers, we’re working on conserving water and using less CO2, all the things a brewery should be doing.

But it is getting warmer and there are more fires and that’s not good. This year, the fires that just started are our first big ones. We’ve had years where, in the last few years, from July on there has been smoke in the air. So we’re pretty lucky [this year].

Where we are, at the very southern end of the North Cascades in terms of snowpack and precipitation we’re still pretty good, and way better than Southern Oregon and Northern California where they are seeing severe droughts. We got a ton of snow and precipitation in April which I think is one of the reasons that fire season held out.

We’re lucky that we’re this far north and not seeing those huge shortages and the really bad conditions, even though we’re used to being very dry. Yakima Valley is a high desert and we typically see around eight inches of precipitation on average.

John Holl: As you think about what you’re doing in house, there are also going to be forces outside that you just can’t control. What kind of conversations are you having with other brewers in other parts of the country to form long-term plans?

Kevin Quinn: We’re always talking and those brewers in the southwest, we’ve ended up learning a lot of stuff from them because they are just further along with water shortages. It takes a lot of barrels of water to make one barrel of beer so being cognizant of that [is key].

This conversation has been condensed and edited for clarity.

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