The Star B is primarily a buffalo ranch but started growing hops last year. This year’s harvest, their second, is in swing now, so we called them up 760-789-8155) and made a reservation, then headed out to the ranch (28428 Hwy 78 Ramona, CA. 92065) to do some picking.
We’d never picked hops before, but Eric, one of the owners, gave us a bag and a couple of pointers and away we went. We picked Cascade hops, the only variety that is plentiful now. They have some Willamette hops that are starting to be ready, and some Nugget and Magnum that should be ready very soon.
Picking the hops was easy and super fun. With two of us there, we picked 2 pounds (about half a paper grocery bag full) in about an hour. They cost $10/pound if you’re in a local homebrewers club, $15/pound otherwise. The hops smelled fantastic and we were smiling the entire time.
It was very peaceful and quiet out there, aside from the occasional grunts from the nearby buffalo or rustling of a rabbit hopping by. It’s an hour outside of San Diego but feels like a world away.
We also kept a couple of sprigs of hops and vines and put them in a baggie to show off while we were out last night. We passed them around at both the Blind Lady and the Tap Room, and everyone we showed them to was excited to see, touch and smell them. And of course we got a lot of double-takes from people who thought our baggie of a green, leafy substance was actually something else.
The harvest should last another 4-6 weeks, according to Eric. If our first batch of homebrew turns out well, we will definitely go back for more.