Sep 11 2013

Thunder logoThis Friday marks the release of our 4th annual batch of Thundercone Fresh Hop Ale. And so without further ado... 

Back in 2008, the Brewers Association (based in Boulder, CO) called fresh-hop beers "a growing phenomenon in the world of craft brewers."

While Thundercone is the one we trumpet about now, it wasn't the first fresh hop beer we made. There had been many small-batch brews made before that, including one made from Fred Eckhardt's hops at both Concordia and Hillsdale.  

It wasn't until 2010 that the decision was made to collectively brew a company-wide, fresh-hop beer on the same day. Thus, Thundercone Fresh Hop Ale was introduced.

The logistics of making a company-wide seasonal beer involving all our breweries on the same day at essentially the same time are highly complicated, to say the least. Effing tricky, one might even say.

Hops VineA group of brewers meet in the wee hours at Sodbuster Farms just outside Salem, Ore., to collect the hops literally moments after they are picked off the vines and brought into the warehouse for harvesting. At left is second-generation farmer/owner Doug Weathers, checking his stock.

The huge, gray, Santa-Claus bags full of sticky, fragrant, green cones are thrown into pick-ups, hoisted into hatchbacks, and stuffed into SUVs before being transported at breakneck speeds (no, everyone observes state limits, of course) to our breweries across Oregon and Washington.

Add hopsMeanwhile, in the breweries, the staff has to make sure that they are at or very close to the correct moment in the brewing process in which to add the hops, timed so that they know when their bag(s) of hops will arrive. Because once they arrive, you can't just throw them in willy-nilly. Brewing is an ancient, time-honored science, for St. Arnold's sake! Nor can you let the fresh hops sit for any length of time, as they quickly begin to decompose due to their naturally high oil content. So when the hops arrive and the precise brewing moment arrives, into the mix the hops go.

Pint of Thunder

Fast forward two weeks. 
A golden pint emerges. 
Cue the angels and harps.

Like magic, an earthy, raw, green, citrusy, flowery, grapefruitalicious beer has appeared. It is no small feat.

Make a point to have a pint or two this Friday, pouring everywhere, at all our locations, until it's gone.

A Few Random Hop Facts...

  • Hops (Humulus lupulus) originated in China, from where the plant moved east- and westward. The first documented instance of hop cultivation was in 736, in what is today known as the Hallertau region of Germany, although the first mention of the use of hops in brewing in that country was 1079.
  • Hops have an antibacterial effect that favors the activity of brewer's yeast over less desirable microorganisms, balance the sweetness of the malt with bitterness, and contribute a variety of flavors and aromas. It is said that traditional herb combinations for beers (dandelion, burdock root, marigold, horehound, ground ivy, or heather) were abandoned when it was noticed that beers made with hops spoiled much slower. (HenceIndia pale ales- the high hop content helped the beer last during the long sail between Europe and India.)
  • Hops are used as an herbal treatment for insomnia - a pillow filled with hops is a popular remedy for sleeplessness. Hops are also used to treat anxiety, restlessness, and menstruation-related issues. So if any of these, um, afflictions are troubling you this Friday, you know what to do: Have a pint of Thundercone.
  • Yes, hops are related to marijuana. Per the interwebs: "In 2002, a group of plant and molecular biologists in the US and UK looked at the structural characteristics, cellular organelles, latex-producing-properties (or lack thereof) and DNA sequences of a select number of genes for all of the plants originally in Urticales and related taxa. The upshot: by comparing sequences of rbcL, trnL-F, ndhF and matK DNA regions, they confirmed that Humulus and Cannabis were very closely related and belonged in a single family, Cannabinaceae."

Overthinking it? You know what to do: Have a pint of Thundercone.

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