Monday seemed pretty typical at the HAAS® Innovations Brewery. Blues music was streaming through the open taproom door. My colleagues Jeff Barnes and Max Snider were busy in the cellar. Everything appeared pretty normal, except for one thing: along with the usual brewhouse smells of beer and cleaning solution – there was a hint of celebration in the air.
Stopping at Virgil McDonald’s office door, I peeked in. I wanted to catch a moment with the HAAS Innovations Masterbrewer himself. “Congratulations, Virgil,” I said, as Jeff and Max appeared in the hall with smiles on their faces. “I heard the good news!”
“It was a team effort,” Virgil humbly replied. “The guys did a great job. And honestly, it’s a testament to the great hops we get to experiment with.”
“I’d like to talk with you more about that. Do you have some time?”
Virgil pulled up a chair out and motioned for me to have a seat. “Let’s talk,” he said.
Over the weekend, while many of us were celebrating the end of hop harvest at the local Fresh Hop Ale Festival where Jeff and Max were participating as beer judges, another celebration was taking place at the 33rd Annual Great American Beer Festival (GABF) in Denver, Colorado. It was here that the HAAS Innovations Brewery’s “Loral Zwickelbier” was awarded a coveted GABF silver medal. I was excited to learn more about our HAAS Brew Crew’s winning flavor style, and the remarkable hop behind its namesake.
CV: Thanks for your time, Virgil. I understand HAAS Innovations Brewery entered the GABF competition and won a silver medal for “Loral Zwickelbier” this weekend – that is fantastic news! What is this event about?
VM: GABF is the largest ticketed and most well-respected beer competition in America. They award bronze, silver and gold medals of excellence to about 107 beer-style categories. Brewers use the event to test out their recipes and products.
CV: Has HAAS Innovations Brewery entered this competition before? If so, why do we participate?
VM: Yes, we’ve entered before. Because we’re a microbrewery passionate about maximizing flavor and minimizing loss, we participate in GABF to demonstrate products we hope will inspire other brewers to their next great beer. And since we get to brew with a wide range of hops, we see ourselves as “flavor scouts” for our customers. We like to highlight interesting hop varieties that showcase “flavor starts here [at Haas].”
CV: Tell me more about the beer your team created. What was your inspiration for “Loral Zwickelbier”?
VM: It really came down to the hop. Loral™ is such an interesting hop variety for me as a brewer. Formerly known as HBC 291, it was developed by Michael Ferguson and the Hop Breeding Company program. It has a really pleasant, floral and herbal aroma to it, and has a high 12% alpha content. Many high alpha hops do not make soft floral aromas while also providing such delicate bittering.
CV: What does this mean in terms of brewing with Loral™? Is there a particular style you’ve found it well-suited for?
VM: That’s something else I’ve found really interesting about Loral™: it’s very versatile – it’s not just for bittering. I find it very well-suited in numerous styles. We’ve brewed it in everything from lager to Bavarian wheat to Belgian white to saison and IPAs, etc. Its flexibility makes it a great hop to brew with and I like that I get consistent results with it. It is very approachable with such a pleasant flavor.
CV: I hear brewing a “Zwickelbier” is no easy feat. What is a “Zwickelbier” and why did you select this style for showcasing Loral™ at GABF?
VM: Zwickelbier is a ‘cellar beer.’ Basically, it is an unfiltered lager-style beer. We are celebrating this as win for Loral™. We’ve known for a while this is a winner of a hop, but this medal proves what we’ve been seeing in our HAAS Innovations Brewery all along – Loral™ makes a great lager and many other styles of beer. It’s super versatile.
CV: Last question, Virgil – what would you tell a brewer who would like to create a “Loral Zwickelbier”-inspired recipe of their own? Would you be willing to share something of the HAAS Brew Crew’s Silver Medal-winning recipe to help them get started?
VM: Yeah, I suppose I could do that…
HAAS Innovations 2019 GABF Silver Medal-Winning “Loral Zwickelbier” Recipe
Our Zwickelbier was brewed with pale and pilsner malts. We targeted 40 IBU’s using Loral for three additions. The first addition of Loral was a 10 IBU target at first wort, the second was also a 10 IBU target just before transfer to the whirlpool and the third addition targeted 20 IBU and was added to the whirlpool. Fermentation utilized a Bavarian Lager strain of yeast. No dry hops were added to the beer.