Sod Buster Hop Farm Adventure by Jane Trout

Did you realize that Oregon beers are known worldwide and that our state is a national beer drinker’s paradise?  Did you know that Bend and, Central Oregon in general, boasts one of the highest per capita Porsche ownerships in the entire country?  What happens when the High Desert Porsche Club decides to combine these two Oregon strengths?  They partake in a member Porsche drive on a beautiful early September Saturday to the largest distributor of hops in the nation Sodbuster Farms, Salem, OR.

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It was my lucky day.  A good friend, who belongs to the club and planned this outing, just happened to be in need of a co-pilot/navigator to make this journey with him.  We met early on the morning of September 5, in the Best Buy parking lot, for a meet and greet and a short refresher on the “rules of the road”.  By 8:30 a.m. we were on our way and headed up and over the mountain pass.  The scenery was spectacular as we wound over the Cascades, albeit a bit rainy, which only enhanced the beauty by engulfing the pines in an early morning mist.

I was riding in the lead car.  My friend had planned this day and he, therefore, had the honor of leading the pack.  Imagine seeing thirteen Porsches, with headlights glowing, making their way along a winding, mountain highway.  Quite the visual!  As this was Labor Day weekend, our short meeting included an important reminder to be aware of Oregon’s finest protecting our roadways in their shiny new unmarked Ford Mustangs.  Sure enough, there were several sightings but no cause for any concern.

Our first, and only, stop along the way was at Maples Rest Area which, incidentally, the lead driver and his trusty navigator (me) drove right by…..luckily, all other Porsche Club members were well aware of this turn off.  We sheepishly maneuvered our way back to the rest stop and joined the group for home baked cookies and water, provided for all members.  It was a perfect spot to stretch our legs as well as nourish and hydrate before driving the final leg to the farm.

Sodbusters Farm is the largest certified Salmon-Safe hops farm in Oregon and is located in Oregon’s fertile Willamette Valley.  We were graciously greeted by our hosts, the owners/operators of Sodbuster Farms, Doug Weathers and his wife Audrey who are also active members of the club.  Porsche drivers were directed to park in a large semi-circle in an open area, surrounded by field after field of magnificent hops. Spectacular!  Local beer is important to Sodbuster Farms and they grow more than fourteen different varieties of aromatic and bittering hops for the vibrant craft brew industry.  They also contribute to more than twenty different regional “fresh hop” beers annually.

Next on the agenda was a delicious luncheon buffet, arranged by Doug and Audrey, and prepared by Keith the chef/owner of a favorite local bar/restaurant, The Hitchin’ Post.  I can think of no reason for any of us to have left our tables either hungry or thirsty.

Fully satisfied by our lunch break, we were now ready to begin the much anticipated tour of the Sodbuster Farms facility, led patiently by Doug.  Each step of growing and harvesting hops, as well as the equipment used, was thoroughly explained as we went from one processing station to the next.  A multitude of questions were answered, hundreds of pictures taken.  The timing of our visit was perfect as it happened right in the middle of their annual harvest.  24 hours a day, 7 days a week for approximately one month.  Our tour concluded with a stop at Doug’s newly built and beautifully designed office building, which…surprise, surprise….included the opportunity to sample different beers.  We were more than willing to oblige as Doug poured generously.

I came away with a new appreciation for both a Porsche and a beer. I hated to see this day come to an end.   One surprise was how comfortable the Porsche was on a long drive. I enjoyed every curve in every mile of the highway, and I was sorry when the ride was over.  There was no need for conversation or music when I could listen to the glorious exhaust note.  It’s true…. “Porsche doesn’t make any bad cars, even any mediocre cars. It’s only a matter of good, better or best.”

Nor does Oregon brew any bad or mediocre beers. I now also fully understand why Oregon beers stand out and suggest you drop into any brewpub and see what they can do with some water, grain, hops from Sodbuster Farms, and a little creativity.  Since Oregon has the most breweries per capita, you won’t have to look far to find a brewpub or beer to suit your tastes. And fresh hops beers are just being poured.

A heartfelt thanks to the High Desert Porsche Club for allowing me to be included in this extraordinary day and to Doug and Audrey Weathers, Sodbuster Farms, for their generous hospitality.

Jane Trout, guest