Hop Showcase Tour at Kalamazoo Beer Week gives a taste of Michigan-grown hops

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By: Eric Strader
ericstrader69@gmail.com

Photo supplied/John Liberty

Bonnie Steinman from Hop Head Farms is teaming up with West Michigan Beer Tours for a Hop Showcase Tour Jan. 10 during Kalamazoo Beer Week 2015.

Registration for the Hop Showcase Tour will start at noon on Saturday at Shakespeare’s Pub, with stops at Tibbs Brewing Company, Drake Party Center and Old Burdick’s Bar and Grill, wrapping up around 4:30 p.m. Tickets are $49.

Along the way, Bonnie will discuss the differences between Michigan hops and hops grown in other parts of the country, and highlight three specific varietals: Centennial, Cascade and Citra.

Recently, Hop Head Farms announced an expansion with Berrien County-based grower Ceres Hops and Grain. The added 148 acres will mean more resources to expand the farm network’s growing space, varietal selection and processing capabilities.

Bonnie told me that they will, “continue to welcome new growers into the HHF network and encourage our current farmers to expand as well. The partnership with Ceres will help each of us be able to concentrate on each of our specialties.”

When I asked Bonnie what she was most looking forward to about Kalamazoo Beer Week, she responded, “I am looking forward to being involved with more events like the tour on Saturday.”

During the tour, Bonnie will have hop samples for tour participants to handle and smell, and she will discuss the different characteristics hops can add to different beers. Most of all, she will be doing what she loves to do: tasting, enjoying and talking about the beers right along with the participants.

The tour will begin at Shakespeare’s Pub with registration at noon and the bus departing at 12:45 p.m. Shakespeare’s is a beer centric pub featuring 44 taps and will have several hop-forward beers on tap for the tour.

Kevin Tibbs at Tibbs Brewing Company makes three beers just perfect for this hop tour, each brewed with one of the featured hops.

A-Tibbical Pale Ale (6.8% ABV)  is brewed exclusively with Hop Head Farms Cascade hops; Common Law IPA (8% ABV) is predominately made with Centennial hops and some Warrior bittering hops (both from Hop Head Farms); and Citra Your Ass Down (7.8% ABV) is predominantly made with Citra hops.

Samples of all three Tibbs beers are included in the tour, giving participants an opportunity to compare hop profiles. Extra time will be allowed to purchase full pints of any beers on the brewpub’s current tap list as well.

Tibbs is also hosting a beer and Santa Maria style barbecue pairing during Kalamazoo Beer Week, at 6 p.m. Jan. 12. Kevin told me, “Having a seated event is something new for us so that’s exciting in of itself. Then you add on the fact that we will be pairing our beer with, truthfully, some of the best barbecue I’ve ever eaten and that really gets me pumped for this event.” You can find more events listed on Tibbs Brewing Company’s Facebook page, or at the Kalamazoo Beer Week event schedule.

The next stop on the Hop Showcase Tour is Drake Party Center, one of the top bottles shops in Kalamazoo, which will present a tasting in its beer cave. The tasting will include these hop forward beers:

  • Epic Brewing’s Hopulent (double IPA, 8.4% ABV, Mosaic hops) and Escape to Colorado (IPA, 6.2% ABV, Mosaic and Apollo hops)
  • New Belgium’s Ranger (IPA, 6.5% ABV, Cascade and other hops) and Snapshot (Wheat Ale, 5% ABV, Cascade hops)
  • Dark Horse’s Crooked Tree (IPA, 6% ABV) and Tres Blueberry (Stout, 7.5% ABV)

Representatives from the breweries or distributors will be available to answer questions. Discounts will be available for tour participants: 20 percent off for make-your-own six-packs (instead of the regular 10 percent off), and $1 off four- and six-packs from any brewery being showcased.

On the final stop for the tour, Arcadia Ales’ Cannonball Gold (pale ale, 6.2% ABV, IBUs 65) will be featured at Old Burdick’s Pub.

Cannonball Gold uses all hops from Hop Head Farms and is brewed with barley, rye and wheat. Bonnie from Hop Head Farms worked with the brewers at Arcadia to select and deliver the freshest hops possible for this beer. She told me that the timing was essential and that three different versions were actually brewed, the second of which used 100 percent Hop Head Farms Chinook, Crystal and Glacier hops.

Version one was dry hopped with Hop Head Farms fresh hops. The rest of the hops in this version came from Pittsfield Hops, which has worked with Arcadia for several years to make Cannonball Gold. The third version used hops from Wayland, Mich., using the same varietals as the second version.

Brewer Chuck Brown from Cellar Brewing in Sparta, Mich., has brewed a special pale ale just for this tour using Cascade hops from Hop Head Farms. This will most likely be the only venue serving beer from Cellar Brewing at Kalamazoo Beer Week, and Chuck will be on hand to talk about his beer.

Two other beers may also be available as well: Founders Mosaic Promise (American Pale Ale, 5.5% ABV, IBUs 50, single hopped with Mosaic hops) and Paw Paw Brewing Co.’s Citra Melon (American IPA, 4.8% ABV).

Paw Paw uses a combination of Melon and Citra hops purchased by Hop Head Farms from contracted farmers in Germany. Melon hops are one of four new flavors – including Blanc, Polaris, and Mandarina – that were released by the German Hop Research Institute last year.

Space for the Hop Showcase tour is limited. If you are interested in attending, register early at West Michigan Beer Tours’ website. For a full listing of Kalamazoo Beer Week 2015 events, visit kalamazoobeerweek.com.

For more Michiana craft beer news and commentary from Eric Strader, sign up for the Hop Notes email newsletter.

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