Our “Brewer’s Spotlight” is a series of conversations with innovative brewers across the country. Recently we sat down with Jeremy Moynier, Senior Innovation Brewing Manager of Stone Brewing in San Diego, California. We discussed discovering surprising flavors, how to make a hop variety pop, and finding the keys to a whole other world.
We often like to say that hops are the soul of beer. From your perspective, what role do hops play and how do they contribute to the beers you brew?
Jeremy: Well, I agree with that characterization…that hops are the soul of beer. Obviously, yeast is pretty damn important, water is pretty important, malt is pretty important—because you have to have all those things to brew beer. But we’ve always been a hop-forward or hop-centric brewery. Twenty-two years ago, Stone was one of the earlier breweries to do IPA in bigger production. To us, hops are certainly the most exciting ingredient because of what they offer in terms of variety of flavors and aromas—and the fact that there are different places in the process you can put them, and different forms you can use. So yes, malt, yeast, water, they’re important, but we’ve always gravitated towards hops.
We’ve been working on a new flavor spectrum at Haas because it seems with so many hop-derived flavors, there isn’t a sufficient vocabulary to describe them all. Have you ever been surprised by hop-derived flavors that you’ve come across?
Jeremy: Absolutely. Sorachi Ace…the first time we ever played with that hop—just this big, dill pickle flavor it has—that was surprising to me because I’d never experienced that in a beer, nor would I have associated that with a flavor or aroma that you could actually get out of a hop. This was several years ago, but it was like…“Whoa, that’s different! That’s kinda cool.”
I’ve read some background materials on the new flavor spectrum that Haas has been working on, and I think it’s a great time to focus on that because with these different hops, and all the innovation that’s going on, it is time to have a bigger vocabulary…turning those five or six key factors that we currently use for descriptors into a bigger and wider scope—because there are so many different aromas and flavors, especially with the breeding and development of newer hops.
It’s a lot like the comparison you hear between hops and grapes—it seems the descriptors they use for wine are so analogous to this conversation.
Jeremy: Absolutely. I came from the wine industry originally, so that’s always in the background of my thinking as well. I remember when I interviewed at Stone a million years ago, Greg (Koch) was in the interview and he said, “Oh, you’re a wine guy. Well, I’m going to convince you that there’s a lot more flavor and aroma compounds and varieties in beer.” I learned really quickly that he was right.
If you think back over your time with Stone, what are some of the more out-of-the-box flavors you’ve tried to achieve?
Jeremy: I think it’s changed over time. Tropical was out-of-the-box six or seven years ago, and it’s not so out-of-the-box now. Juicy aromas…that’s a relatively new concept, but, back in the day, when we first tried Amarillo®…I couldn’t believe I was getting Hawaiian Punch [flavor and aroma]I said, that’s awesome. That’s something I want to chase. That kind of red berry and really fruity…it was just so different. I think over time it changes and those flavors become the norm, which is cool, because that just pushes innovation.
More recently that happened we came upon the Loral® hop out of HBC [Hop Breeding Company, a joint venture between Haas and Select Botanicals Group]. That hop really struck me. I don’t know if I’d ever experienced a hop that was that floral but still had a big citrus kick and, at the same time, has this big noble quality—more of the old-school, earth quality in the back.
I think what we’ve learned on this journey we’ve taken with hops is that you don’t always know what you’re going to get—and sometimes a hop like Loral will blow you out of the water. El Dorado® was another hop that we came across that was similar in that it was very distinctive. Big lemon but, at the same time, you have this earthiness and black licorice. I think you find a lot of different uniqueness with these hops, and then you start playing with combos and you just open up a whole other world.
You talked about citrus and tropical…are there other flavor trends emerging, or that are on your radar screen at Stone?
Jeremy: We’re always looking for what’s next, but I don’t think any of this stuff—the citrusy, the tropical and juicy—none of that is played out yet. What’s interesting about hops like El Dorado and Loral, they’re not just one note. They’re not just expressing tropical or citrus; they’re expressing other complexities that give you more to work with.
Looking forward, is there a hop out there that’s going to give me spice and bubble gum and citrus and tropical all in one hop? I don’t know if we have found a hop like that yet. Mosaic® I think is one of those hops that kind of covers the entire spectrum in a lot of ways—and hence its name. I’ve seen a lot of people give different descriptions of that variety, depending on whether they’re a vendor or a grower or a brewer. It’s kind of amazing to me that there’s such a huge spectrum of aroma and flavor. I think it will be exciting to find more hops like that…hops that give people a hard time when it comes to nailing down what you’re getting out of it. And, of course as people use it, they use it differently so that expands the variables as well.
So, how do you get people to focus on just one note of a multi-characteristic hop like Mosaic?
Jeremy: Well, a single hop beer is one way to do it. That’s probably the easiest way. We have a series called Hop Revolver that is just single hop. We’ve been doing these trials for years (internally at Stone) and, after a while, we realized, “We should put the ones we’ve really liked out to the public.” So that’s been a lot of fun over the past year or so. We did one with Mosaic and, no surprise, the beer was awesome.
If you want to highlight one hop, you try to find others to complement it. You add it more at the end, in the whirlpool addition, and definitely in the dry hop. And you have to be sure to use enough. I’ve seen a lot of trails over the years where people just aren’t using enough of the hop—or making a beer that’s highlighting the hop enough, because the malt background or yeast they’re using…you need to take all that into consideration to understand what’s really going to pop the hop, and really showcase it.