Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Stormcloud Brewing Releases Leelanau Pale Ale Series Featuring Locally-Grown Hops

Brewer Brian Confer calls it “Leelanau Pale Ale” series – and while he says the malt bill for each beer won’t change from batch to batch, the hops certainly will. Each beer in the 13-brew series will feature a single hop variety grown on the nearby Leelanau Peninsula. Empire Orchards and Hop Farm provided all but one hop variety, which came from New Mission Organics in Omena.

“The base beer style is somewhere between a pale ale and an amber ale – landing on the orange side and containing a dose of malty sweetness,” says Confer.

The bitterness is at the high end of a Pale Ale and the low end of an IPA, with the goal to keep the bitterness level consistent across the 13 brews.

“We do that by adjusting the first hop charge,” Confer says. “The brew will have hop additions at 60 minutes, 15 minutes, zero minutes and a drop-hop. The 15, zero and dry-hop amounts are always equal, but the 60 minute addition adjusts up or down to keep the bitterness consistent.”

The Summit hops incorporated into the third batch in the season are unique to Michigan and come from Brian Tennis at New Mission Organics. He is the only grower outside of the Yakima Valley that is growing this variety and one of only eight farmers in the country licensed to do so.

The other 12 varieties (listed below in order of production) come from Empire Orchards and Hop Farms.

Not knowing if the terroir of Michigan changes the character of these hops, which are typically purchased from the Pacific Northwest or from Britain, Confer said he wanted to conduct an experiment of sorts with this series.

“I thought it would be fun and enlightening to explore each hop individually and taste the characteristics of each Leelanau grown variety,” he says. “The way we’re releasing this series, it allows us to taste the significant difference each hop provides to the same base beer.”

The series is in production now, with 5bbls of each being offered up in the pub only. Nugget was released December 20 and is still on tap. Each batch will stay on tap as long as it takes to deplete the supply – the more popular the brew, the quicker it will sell out.

The hop list (in order of production) includes:

• Nugget: a great bittering hop with a clean bitterness and herbal aroma; typically used in pale ales and IPAs.
• Fuggle: a cornerstone hop in English brewing; classic aroma hop with pleasant wood and fruit tone; typically used in many British ales across all styles.
• Summit: a high alpha hop with funky, earthy, tangerine character; typically used in a variety of American Style Ales, particularly pale ales and IPAs.
• Crystal: used mainly for its aromatic properties. Mild, spicy and floral; typically used in a range of beer styles, from Barleywines to Lagers.
• Magnum: prized mostly for its high bittering value. Also has a spice & citrus aroma; used extensively in a range of beer styles often early in the boil to gain a good clean bitterness.
• Empire: classic noble hop type bittering with an aromatic blend of earth and spice; this hop has been in the state since 1850 and is grown only in Michigan and exclusively at Empire Orchards and Hop Farm.
• Cascade: a very popular US variety, with a moderate bitterness and fragrant, citrus-floral aroma; synonymous with American Pale Ale; typically used in American Pale Ales and IPAs. The signature hop in Sierra Nevada's Pale Ale.
• Vovjidina: a high alpha dual purpose hop - used both for its bittering and aroma properties. Exhibits a superior noble hop aroma profile; not widely used. Fun fact: it's slow to catch on because it's hard to pronounce! (Voe-va-dine-a).
• Chinook: mild to medium-heavy, spicy, piney and slight grapefruity; used extensively for bittering and dry-hopping in a range of American ales.
• Willamette: mild and pleasant, slightly spicy, fruity, floral and a little earthy; similar to and often used as a substitute to British Fuggles; used far and wide in a vast range of beer styles.
• Brewer's Gold: resiny and spicy bittering hop with a fruity black currant aroma; used in a range of beers from English & Belgian ales to German lagers.
• Glacier: a clean bittering hop with an earthy & citrus aroma; used in a range of American ales.
• Centennial: sometimes referred to as a “Super Cascade” with strong floral and citrus tones and clean bitterness; used extensively in American Pale Ales and IPAs. The signature hop in Bell's Two Hearted Ale.

Empire Orchards & Hops Farm was established in 2008 as one of the first commercial hop farms in the State of Michigan. Since 2008, Empire Hops Farm has been at the forefront of the rapidly expanding Michigan Hop Industry, distributing a high quality product to breweries throughout the state. Empire Hops farm sells fresh, dried whole leaf and pelletized hops.

New Mission Organics is located in Omena, in the northeastern part of the Leelanau Peninsula. This small 30-acre farm, owned by Brian and Amy Tennis, specializes in organic and sustainably grown hops. Currently, 10 acres are in production, with a planned expansion scheduled for the spring of 2014.

New Mission Organics is one of the founding members of the Michigan Hop Alliance – an organization created to advance the hop industry in Michigan through knowledge sharing and equipment availability. Through the MHA, member hop growers are now able to take hops from cones to pellets in a much shorter time.

For updates on when each brew batch will be released, follow Stormcloud Brewing on Facebook ( and/or Twitter (

Stormcloud Brewing is located at 303 Main St., Frankfort – just two blocks from Lake Michigan.

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