How a Hop Shortage Became The Mother of Invention

PardebloemEvery beer has a story.

Each glass contains a collection of ideas; a chorus of ingredients; a regional influence; a brewer’s joy; and sometimes a brewer’s pain.

This is a story about Red Rock Brewing’s Paardebloem Beer.  Winner of last year’s Gold Medal in the Experimental Beers category of the Great American Beer Festival.  It’s proof that some of the most creative ideas are born out of necessity.

Paardebloem is a Flemish term for ‘dandelion’.   Red Rock’s Paardebloem is a Belgium Style Ale that’s brewed using dandelions as a bitter in place of hops.

It all started when Red Rock Brewing ran out of hops in 2008.  Head Brewer, Kevin Templin made the usual call to his supplier of 15 years.  The company then proceeded to tell Kevin why they couldn’t sell him any more products unless he committed to signing a long-term contract.

“At first I laughed”, said Templin.  “I said, you’re kidding, right?  I considered these guys to be my friends.  After giving them $2 million in business, I couldn’t believe what I was hearing; they were giving me an ultimatum.  They basically told me that they had something that I needed and that the only way that I could have it, is if I would let them tie my hands for two-years.

Most companies will use more hops in one month than I’ll use in a year.  So at the time, it made me very uncomfortable.  I said F-You.  I’ll find someone else with hops.  In fact, I’ll brew a beer without hops.  And I’ll make it so good that people will love it!

After I hung up the phone I thought, oh my…I need some hops”.

Enter Chris McCombs, former brewer for Red Rock and now a Plant Engineer for New Belgium Brewing (Fort Collins, CO).

“I moved into Chris’s job when he left Red Rock to go to New Belgium” said Templin.  “He’d come back to Salt Lake and do some skiing and we’d brew some beer – do some collaborations – you know what I mean?  We had made about 4 or 5 beers up to that point.  We started to bang our heads together for a way to do a bitter with something other than hops.  We considered bark, juniper berries, peppers, etc.  What about dandelions, we thought?  And the idea was born.

We made a 4% draft version the first time.  Then I barrel aged it to see what it would do and it just lit-up!  We decided to put some more booze in it and really tighten it up good.  Now it’s a very big tasting beer.  It’s a 10%.

It would be one thing if we made it and people said ‘this tastes like shit’.  But we made it and people loved it.  They’re like…wow!  This is so good.  Who needs hops?

We now have five medals for this beer. And it all started from someone trying to stick it to the little guy.

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