Our “Brewer’s Spotlight” is a series of conversations with innovative brewers across the country. Recently, HAAS® collaborated with DRU BRU Taproom & Brewery in Snoqualmie Pass, Washington, to celebrate one of our newer hops, BRU-1TM. We sat down with Dru Ernst, owner and founder of DRU BRU to hear about the collaboration.
Could you tell us a little bit about DRU BRU?
Dru: The unique thing about DRU BRU is that we’re located at a ski mountain in Washington State. So, it’s a combination of not just what we brew, but where we brew it. We brew predominantly German beers, but we also love hoppy beers—we live in Washington state and we have lots of great relationships with hop growers and distributors like HAAS®—so we brew a lot of American style hoppy beers, too.
How did the collaboration with HAAS come about?
Dru: We’ve had a long relationship with Yakima Valley Hops, who is a partner of HAAS. Recently, we saw they were carrying a new hop called BRU-1. We’re called DRU BRU and it just seemed like marketing naming perfection. We reached out about doing a collaboration and everyone thought it was a really cool idea.
We scheduled some time with the HAAS Brewing Team to talk and figured we’d craft a recipe on the fly. Then we’d have them brew a pilot batch on this highly automated, super repeatable brewhouse that HAAS uses for experimental hop profiling. They gave us a tour of the facility and it was just incredibly impressive. I am an engineer by trade, so I just love seeing that kind of machinery in action.
The HAAS Innovations Brewery is quite a setup.
Dru: What I think was most beneficial for me as a brewer, and for my team, was the Sensory Analysis we did with HAAS. We went into their cellar and tried several different single-hopped beers that were hopped with BRU-1™, as well as, other experimental hops. It was great to get a sense of these hops, not just in the raw form, but smelling and tasting them after they’ve been put into the beer. It was just such a cool experience to do this—we do tastings with our beer, but it was great to see how they did it, and the whole sensory vocabulary that has been developed by the HAAS team to describe these hops, it was just on a whole other level.
What type of beer did you land on?
Dru: We decided to do hazy style IPA. Our style of brewing at DRU BRU is very approachable beer: we like lower ABVs, beers that can be appreciated by beer drinkers of all different skill levels. That’s why we love German beers that are very simple but have great depth of flavors—and why we’re interested in hazy IPAs. Because they’re not bitter and have so much tropical fruit and juicy character.
And did you just use BRU-1™ hops for this collaboration?
Dru: During the Sensory trial, we ended up tasting three separate single-hopped beers: a BRU-1 beer, an HBC 586 beer and an HBC 630 beer. And then we would try different blends of those beers. You know, let’s try 10 ounces of BRU-1 and 3 ounces of 586 and 1 ounce of 630. So, we monkeyed with that for a bit until we all agreed we’d found a really great combo, then we built a recipe around it.
Virgil (McDonald, Head Brewmaster of the HAAS Innovations Brewery) and I went back and forth on the malt bill and the yeast selection, based on what we as a brewery typically use, as well as, techniques that HAAS has found successful in yielding hazy beers and beers that bind well to these hop flavors. So, we used some oats and some two-row. They brewed a pilot batch…we tried it, made some tweaks, basically to make it even hoppier and to give it some more body. We ended up adding some rolled oats to the bill and increasing the dry hopping regimen by about 50%, from 2 pounds to 3 pounds per barrel.
When did the new beer rollout?
Dru: Well, we planned to brew the beer around March 20th…then the world came to a halt. So, we pulled the plug on brewing the beer at that time. Originally, were going to put it all in kegs and we had lots of bars lined up. Once COVID hit, we decided to brew the beer in late April, early May and decided to bottle it all in 22s for sale out of our taproom and bottle shops or bars that were selling to-go beer.
What has the reaction been like?
Dru: It’s only been out for a few weeks now, but people are loving it. We’ve been selling it like crazy out of our taproom, which is now open with social distancing. The beer turned out just like we hoped. It’s hazy with a ton of tropical character. The BRU-1 is pineapple bomb—it’s like nothing I’ve ever brewed with before, so people definitely notice that immediately and the other hops complement it really well, with some nice herbal notes that are subtle but add some complexity. We actually have a second batch planned to be kegged since so many people are wanting it, now that things are beginning to look like they’ll be opening back up.
So, you seem pretty excited about these hops. Is it safe to assume you’d recommend them to a fellow brewer?
Dru: Absolutely. And I’m hopeful that all of these hops will become more and more available, and make their way out of the HBC breeding program to become full-time, branded hops. I mean, all three of these hops have legs—BRU-1 is especially unique. It will be interesting to see how the beer holds up, from a flavor stability perspective, but I don’t know if we’re going to see that because I have a feeling it’s all going to be gone pretty fast.
To learn more about DRU BRU, visit drubru.com. To learn more about BRU-1™, visit johnihaas.com/bru-1 or contact your HAAS® representative.