May 24, 2018

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GABF brewers' diaries

Vinnie Cilurzo

Russian River Brewing, Santa Rosa - Sept. 2

When I purchased Russian River Brewing Company from my former employer, Korbel Champagne Cellars, where I was the brewer, I also graciously inherited the hopyard that I have been growing since 1997. In 1999, we started making HopTime Harvest Ale, a brew using six times the amount of hops compared to a regular batch of Pale Ale or IPA. Over the years, this has become our most popular beer for both fellow brewers and the public a like at the GABF. I felt last year I really hit my stride with this beer, getting everything just right for what in my mind was the best beer I have ever made!

So last winter, a local brewer friend of mine, Brian Hunt from Moonlight Brewery, mentioned to me that he needed to meet a Sonoma County requirement for his new brewing facility, and he would have to plant a small hopyard. Not having a home for my hops, we worked out a deal and moved my hopyard onto his brewery property. It's worked out well, but with transplanting hops comes transplant shock! Many of the hops didn't produce any flowers this year so HopTime Harvest Ale will not be brewed in 2003. It's a real disappointment to me because for one, it's my favorite beer I produce. I also know that many people enjoy this beer at the GABF, and my wife and I are going to catch a lot of flack for not having it at our booth and at the Brewer's Gathering on Wednesday night.

On a positive note though, when we were harvesting what hops were in the field, a neighbor of Brian's came over with a friend who owned one of the last remaining hopyards in Sonoma County in 1958. A couple of days later he invited me to his house to pick the five or six vines he had growing in his backyard, which are circa 1950. Alvin doesn't know what variety they are, but I suspect they are California Cluster. At any rate, next winter I'm going to start propagating cuttings off his hop plants and start growing this old world variety at a second hopyard that I will be planting next March. Who knows, maybe next year I will bring two different "wet" hop beers to the GABF.

Next, Shipping Day.

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