McKenzieTM C-148 c.v. Brewer’s Spotlight
McKenzie is the first proprietary hop from West Coast Hop Breeding, a collective of family-owned farms in Oregon’s famous Willamette Valley, and available exclusively from HAAS® and BarthHaas®. We recently sat down with Larry Sidor, founder of Crux Fermentation Project in Bend, OR, to hear what it’s like to brew with this exciting new Oregon-bred hop.
How did you first learn about the West Coast Hop Breeding Company?
Larry Sidor: I’ve been working with Willamette Valley hop growers for 50 years—and I’ve known three generations of hop growers out of the Willamette Valley—so it’s just kind of a natural progression. Cheyne Fobert and Austin Smith [two of the six hop growers in WCHB] showed up at my brewery one day and kind of broke the news to me what they had going on with Pat Leavy [who bred McKenzie]. So that was my first knowledge of what they were doing.
And what was your experience like, brewing with McKenzie C-148 c.v.?
It was winter, a couple years ago. Cheyne and Austin asked if we were interested in trying McKenzie out—although, at the time it didn’t even have a name. They had 20 one-pound samples…my brewers will never forgive me for that. They were on top of the fermenters, ripping open the foil packages and dumping them in one at a time. We brewed two or three experimental beers, 10 barrels at a time. And, last year, I brewed a fresh hop beer, about 200 barrels. We’re still playing around with it to figure out where it fits in the hopping regime of our beers.
What’s its aroma profile like?
It’s a very complex hop. It has layers and layers for the brewer to work with. The aroma profile of McKenzie has quite a bit of floral to it. It has some cedar notes to it. It has some citrus—it’s sort of a Centennial hop on steroids. And so if you like brewing with Centennial, you’ll love brewing with McKenzie, but it’s much more layered and in-depth flavors and aromas.
It’s the complexity of both aroma and flavor that it brings…because, you know, hops are not just about aroma, it’s just not about bitterness, but the different levels of flavor, of astringency, of bitterness that it brings to the table. And that’s what I like about it. It’s not painting a room beige. You got all the colors coming out of McKenzie—you got the purples, you got the blues, you got the greens. And so it’s a palette you can just play with as a brewer.
It seems there’s a special place in your heart for McKenzie. Why is that?
The sustainability of McKenzie hops is really important to me because, over the years, I’ve been a proponent of organic hop growing. I worked with Pat Leavy when I was at the Deschutes brewery, and developed an organic beer program there. I’ve worked with several of the Willamette Valley hop growers on Salmon-Safe hops, and it’s a project that’s good for the world. It’s good for the economy. And it’s good for the Willamette Valley hop growers.
And, so, the development of hops that grow well in the Willamette Valley is paramount to me. The Willamette Valley has one of the best hop terroirs in the world. And they produce, I would say, the best hops in the world. But one of the problems is hop research—the R&D of hops has been really focused on the hotter drier areas of the world. And so to see a hop that grows well agronomically in the Willamette Valley is just heartwarming.
What have your customers thought of McKenzie hops?
The customer response has been fantastic. Down here at the pub with our small brew house—it’s really an innovation brew house—and so, when we release a beer here to the customers, the bartenders, everybody is talking about it. And the customer response so far has just been overwhelmingly positive. From a commercial standpoint, the fresh hop beer that we did last year has been overwhelming. Customers vote with their wallet, and we’re doubling the amount of the McKenzie fresh hop beer that we made last year.
Sounds like McKenzie has a lot going for it.
This hop appeals to me, first and foremost, because I’m a native Oregonian and I want to see the Willamette Valley continue as a dominant force in the world of hop growing. On a smaller basis, just the sustainability of receiving hops that are grown a couple hours away from Crux is, I think, a great, great thing.
But, beyond that, the McKenzie hop and West Coast Hop Breeding—it’s just been an honor to be involved in the process. I’ve had 50 years of brewing and rubbing elbows with three generations of Willamette Valley farmers. And it’s an honor to rub elbows with the latest generation of hop growers in the Willamette Valley.
To learn more about McKenzie, visit our product page or watch the video. To give McKenzie a try, contact your HAAS representative, or your favorite HAAS distribution partner. And let us know what you think!