Nebraska Hop Cup Showcases The Best of Local
At Pals one of our goals is to make our craft beers using local ingredients whenever we can. It’s definitely part of what made brewing this year’s annual Nebraska Hop Cup beer, Pals CallioPA, such an enjoyable experience. The Nebraska Hop Cup is an annual fundraiser hosted by Nebraska Brewing Company in LaVista. The event benefits the Nebraska Hop Growers Association and the Nebraska Craft Brewers Guild. If you love local craft beer and have never been to this event, you should make it a point to attend this year. Unlike other festivals, every beer served is a one-off beer brewed using 100% Nebraska grown hops. Most are small batches not released to distributors and the only way to sample them (unless you plan to travel to 17 taprooms) is to attend the event. If you want to sample our newest beer release, the Pals CallioPA Imperial IPA, and don’t live in North Platte you best “Hop” in the car and head to Omaha this Saturday.
How Pals CallioPA Was Born
The idea for Pals CallioPA was born out of several of my personality quirks. As a social butterfly I love local ingredients and talking and working with local people. I’m also a bit of a self acknowledged pack rat. My beloved wife doesn’t understand why I keep a collection of various jars of screws, nails, nuts, and bolts in the garage. She doesn’t understand why I save ticket stubs from every event I’ve ever attended. She rolls her eyes at my holey t-shirts from college. In my defense I will say I grew up in a frugal household. Why throw something out that might have a use someday? For Pete’s sake the Nob used to duct tape everything.
After tasting Pals CallioPA, I think she’s changing her tune. You see whenever a local hop grower calls and asks if we would like a sample of their hops, I always say “Heck Yeah!”. I’m very interested in finding local suppliers of high quality and unique ingredients. Over the past two years, there has been a steady increase in Nebraska farmers growing Hops. As the number of hop farmers has increased, so has the number of sample packages filling our freezer at Pals. It suddenly hit me while rummaging through them what we were going to do with all those hop samples…
Weighing in at a hefty 9.5% abv, Pals CallioPA is an Imperial IPA brewed with 8 different hop varieties grown by four different Nebraska hop farms. We used almost 5 pounds of hops per barrel but it doesn’t come across as all that bitter. Most of the hops were used in the fermenter to impart some amazing fresh tropical fruit aroma and flavor. The huge malt bill also tempers the bitterness. The result is like sipping a cordial with a malty hoppy goodness. It showcases just how far hop growing in Nebraska has come in a very short time. We have a tremendously friendly group of hop farmers to thank for it.
Hop Farms in CallioPA
Hop farmers like Bruce and Annette Wiles from Midwest Hop Producers. They’ve taken a former golf course in Plattsmouth and transformed it into the largest hop yard in Nebraska. We used an abundance of their hops in the fermenter to achieve those wonderful tropical notes in Pals CallioPA. The Wiles have made a tremendous investment in Nebraska and have worked tirelessly to promote local hops and craft beer in our state. Their taproom serves primarily Nebraska craft beers made with local hops. They are also some of the warmest and genuine people you would ever want to do business with.
Speaking of warm and friendly, we also used a bunch of Galena and Cascade hops from Legendary Roots Brewing Supply in Pals CallioPA. I had the pleasure to meet Kevin Wagner and his sister at the Nebraska Brewer Grower Conference in January of last year. The brother-sister duo started growing hops in Valley County in 2016. You might remember that our 2018 harvest ale Five Fools and A Preacher used a heaping pile of their Cascade hops. They picked the hops in the morning and drove them down from Ord by noon. Talk about farm to table! What a huge advantage of working with local people. It doesn’t get any fresher than brewing with hops a few hours after they were picked. We even got to sample some of Kevin’s wonderful homebrew.
Ryan Stearns of Burning Barn Hopyard has been an avid homebrewer for maybe as long as I have. He has been growing hops in Brady for many years. We used his Columbus and Cascade whole cone hops in the Mango Habanero Double IPA we brewed for last year’s Cup as well as Five Fools and a Preacher. They both turned out so delicious we decided we just had to use them again. Ryan also designed Pals building. It’s always handy when your architect turns out to have other useful hobbies and delivers hops to your door.
Just before we added the final dry hops to Pals CallioPA, another hop sample came through the door. This time it was a 1 lb Cascade sample from Loup Valley Hops in Ord. The owner, Cody Freouf, had reached out on Facebook a few weeks earlier to introduce himself. He offered to send a sample of his second year crop saying they had great aroma. When they arrived Tom, Zac and I whipped up some hop tea and ran them through our highly technical hop test to confirm. We werer impressed enough after sniffing and sipping on them we just had to modify the recipe to include them. We can’t wait to see what their hops smell like when their local bines fully mature!
Which brings me back to local. These are Nebraska farmers who pay Nebraska taxes. They are close enough in geography to bump into occasionally and hoist a few pints together. As much as I love the Oregon farmers who provide us with several hops, they don’t pay Nebraska property taxes. They live too far away to be neighbors, don’t vote for the same slate of local/state politicians or patronize Nebraska craft brewery taprooms to buy our beer. The money doesn’t stay local. This is important to me as I need a slate of great restaurants, merchants, and entertainment venues where I can socialize away from the brewery. When you try the Pals CallioPA please think about where the money goes. It’s supporting your neighbors who brew it. Your neighbors that serve it. Local hop farmers. It pays local and state taxes for schools and roads. So thanks for supporting your neighbors and Nebraska’s hop farmers. We hope to see you at the Nebraska Hop Cup on Saturday to try 16 other local beers made with 100% Nebraska hops.