Brewers Nathan and Gina celebrating the release of Straight Outta Hopton with Dave at 7:30am on 7/16/15.
It’s so cliché but I remember one year ago like it was yesterday. We had barely completed the finishing touches to the tap room when the clock hit noon, and it was time to open the brewery to the public for the first time. To say emotions were running high would be putting it pretty mildly, it was a blend of giddy excitement, anxiety, nervousness and fear that nobody would show up. As unfounded as that last emotion would end up being, it was running strong for the good part of the day inside me. We had done all this work at the brewery for months and had been planning and preparing for this day for years. I had brewed 8 batches at that point, plus another one, our very first one, that didn’t meet our standards and ended up going down the drain. Maybe thinking that NOBODY would come was a bit nonsensical, but what if only a handful of people came? Would that feel like a success? And there is was, the clock right at noon, time to open, time to find out, time to start the rest of my life.
Fortunately, our friend Collin walked in right as we were opening up the garage doors and became our first customer. His dollar is still framed behind the bar. Then more people started trickling in. We were having a great time behind the bar, serving beer to our new customers and friends and talking about our creations. Then more people started trickling in. And more. And before we knew it, conversations were at a minimum just so we could keep up with demand. The next thing I knew, it was Happy Hour and we were calling in reinforcements and were still having trouble keeping up. Day transitioned into night, and we were packed. All my fears had been erased, but I was way too busy to beam with pride. There was a lot more beer to pour.
One year later, we have brewed 41 different styles, and at this very moment are brewing our 99th batch. Things are a lot more under control now, and I rarely find myself behind the bar pouring beer anymore, as we have such an amazing staff, I’m able to come in and brew then relax with a beer or two (hey, that rhymes!). Since that amazing day one year ago, I have been privileged to be the brewmaster for Edgewater’s first, oldest and favorite brewery, and it is not a responsibility that I take lightly. Situated across from Sloan’s Lake and next to the “Edgewater” sign, we are part of the gateway to welcomes people to the City of Edgewater. On hot days, we glow like a beacon to park users, seeing “Brewery” on our Sheridan side awning while wiping the sweat off their brow. Many times, we are their introduction to our fine city. That’s one of the reasons I take our beer so seriously. I don’t just want to be the brewery with the killer location next to Sloan’s Lake. I don’t just want to be the average neighborhood brewery. I want to be the brewery that is known for making kick ass beer that supports it’s neighborhood with an amazing view of the lake. If we are their introduction to Edgewater, I want it to be a memorable one that will bring them back frequently, to us, as well as our neighbors. This brewery and this job means the world to me, and I can’t thank you all enough for making mine (and our) dreams come true. And when I see you in the taproom wearing your Joyride hats and shirts, it’s reaffirming that I’m not the only one proud of this place. Thank you, and you have my word that we’ll continue making the best beer I can. I look forward to sharing it with you.
Alright, enough with that sappy stuff. Let’s talk about what you came here to read, our First Anniversary Triple IPA, Straight Outta Hopton. Up until recently, I wasn’t really convinced that Triple IPAs actually existed. The ones I would try would easily fit within the Imperial IPA category, or be a slightly hoppier Barleywine. But I’ve changed my mind over the past couple of months. What to call a brew that is higher in alcohol than the style guidelines permit for Imperial IPA, doesn’t have the rich malty character normally found in a barleywine and is oppressively bitter, almost to a fault? Beers such as Pliny the Younger and Dogfish Head 120 Minute were some of the trailblazers, and now there is a plethora of Triple IPAs on the market.
The recipe for Hopton is essentially just a scaled up version of our Edgewater IPA. One main difference is that we used so much malt, we couldn’t fit all of it in our mash tun, so we had to do two mashes and two lauters to fill up the boil kettle. We reduced the percentage of crystal malt from the Edgewater, but essentially doubled the amount of 2 row. Then we proceeded to hop the living daylights out of it, including 21 lbs in the whirlpool alone. We used the same hops and hop schedule as Edgewater, but again, essentially doubled. For fermentation, we used a gigantic pitch of our house ale strain from our friends at Inland Island that went right to work. As we do with our Belgians and Joyride Double IPA, we added sugar after high krausen to help dry the beer out. Finally, unlike our Edgewater IPA, we did a double dry hop. I figured we’re doubling everything else, why stop there? Plus, I enjoy the difference a double dry hop makes over adding double the hops in a single addition.
Aroma and flavor wise, it’s in your face. This beer oozes hop character. If you drink it alongside our Edgewater IPA, you’ll notice the similarities immediately, but the differences will also be apparent. As you’d expect, everything is magnified. The same flavors that make Edgewater so great, the danky resin, pine and touch of tropical are all there. When you drink Hopton, the hop flavor instantly suffocates the front and sides of your tongue. When the thick, hoppy goodness subsides, the bitterness comes in swiftly and takes over the back of your tongue. However, as you go through your glass, you start to become desensitized and the “rough edges” are now all of a sudden surprisingly balanced. There is a noticeable alcohol sweetness that mixes with the hop flavor, as well as an apparent warming sensation as you swallow and the beer travels down to your stomach. Despite coming it at 11% abv, the beer reached terminal gravity at 1.5° Plato, so it finishes amazingly dry. Since it’s so big and rich, you’ll want to take small breaks between sips, but because of it’s dry finish, part of you will want to keep going. It’s a dilemma for sure.
When we were homebrewing, our motto was “Big Beers Need Love, Too!” We moved away from that philosophy when we started the brewery and focused a little more on sessionable beers, so it’s only fitting that our first anniversary beer comes in at the highest abv we’ve ever done at the brewery. I think people call that coming full circle or something. I believe it is totally deserving of being our anniversary beer, as it took an extended brew day, special techniques, careful pre planning and recipe formulation, and of course, it’s delicious.
Just like our Joyride Double IPA, we serve this in our 10oz snifter glass. Because of the 11% alcohol content and the special nature of this beer, we’re limiting it to 3 glasses each per day. It sells for $6 with no Happy Hour discount and no growlers.
I hope you can join us for our first anniversary today as we tap this wonderful Triple IPA. We’ll be having a group bike ride around the lake starting at 7pm, and everyone who rides gets a free pint once we get back to the brewery. Meet next door at Yawp Cyclery and we’ll do a very leisurely 5 mile ride before heading back.
To close, I’ll return to my sappy nature. It has been a wild ride these past 365 days. I continue to be honored and humbled by all of you who come in to meet friends, take in the lake and enjoy our beer. It is a tremendous feeling that I wish I could share with you. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I hope you enjoy our anniversary beer Edgewater, you deserve it.