Fresh Hop Season Has Arrived – The Story of Two Craft Beer Icons, Vern & Gary
This is the Beer that Hop Built – The Central Park Fresh Hopped Extra Pale Ale.
If you were to ask around the BC craft beer industry insiders as to who the most respected brewers are, there are a small hand-full of names that may come up. Two that would surely be at the top of the list are Vern Lambourne and Gary Lohin. Vern is the brewmaster and partner at Port Moody’s Parkside Brewery. Formerly, Verne was steering the craft-ship behind Granville Island’s operation. Gary, on the other hand is synonymous with the Central City Brewery and Red Racer Brand located in Surrey BC.
It is not uncommon to see brewers fraternizing amongst one another as the craft brewing scene is as friendly as they come. This may be business, but the community seems to always come first. In that spirit, these two brewers came together at the Parkside Brewery in Port Moody’s “Brewer’s Row” to create something special. A Fresh Hop, collaboration beer.
Fresh Hop beers are one of the most exciting aspects of craft brewing, but are also one of the logistically most challenging. In order to brew such a beer the timing has to be impeccable. The hops have only a short window in which they can be harvested and once picked, the brew must commence within hours. Using local hops grown in the Fraser Valley, Gary and Vern decided to brew an Extra Pale Ale, or XPA for the 2016 release to be a little different from the typical fresh hop brews. The beer is called Central Park.
To brew this beer three different hops were used. A combination of Centennial, Cascade and Chinook hops were harvested, delivered and brewed within only a few hours. Fresh hop flavour is known for its grassy-citrus notes and earth tones but that doesn’t come easy. To brew 5,000 litres of beer in this case, more than 200KG of hops were needed.
The challenge doesn’t end in just getting the fresh hops to brew with either. Breweries are usually designed around systems and processes that do not include dumping 200kg of hop cones into a steel vessel. In order to achieve the brew manual labour must occur.
This is craft beer at its finest. There is no button pressing here to make things happen. The addition of fresh hops involves both brewers taking turns with a snow shovel, standing on top of the Lauder Tun dumping all 200KG of hops into the vessel. As ridiculous as it sounds, this is the type of situation that makes craft beer so amazing. The beer is only possible by breaking the rules, stretching boundaries and thinking outside of the box. Craft beer is as much about creativity and manual labour as it is about science and perfection. Both sides are necessary for success and together they can amount to something truly remarkable.
Fresh hop beers will flood the market late September and into October every year. Vern and Gary have done something truly remarkable here and they are not alone. A similar story exists across dozens of other breweries across British Columbia. Fresh Hop beer is something that is only possible in certain regions of the world at specific times of the year. BC brewers have an amazing opportunity each fall to make something that is truly unique. BC craft beer consumers have a world-class variety of options hitting the market.
Don’t miss out, it is time to start enjoying this year’s fresh hop brews.
This article was written by Dustan Sept who has a vested relationship with Central City Brewers. Learn more at beermebc.com/the-beer-me-bc-team