As California’s Firestone Walker Brewing Company moves from Luponic Distortion Revolution No. 009 to No. 010 this summer, the brewery — which has a nationwide platform that few others do — gives fans insight into the possibilities that can be pulled from hops.
This is exactly what brewmaster Matt Brynildson sought when the Luponic Distortion series launched a few years ago. New hops with flavor-forward properties are introduced to the brewing world every year. While searching for hops in Germany for Firestone’s session IPA, Easy Jack, Brynildson and his team found an eclectic range of hops outside the traditional German noble breeds.
“Up to that point, we’d been introduced to the hop breeding programs in the U.S., but we’re a brewery of few beers and every time I get introduced to new hops … I have a small corral of beer and there’s not a lot of room for new hops.”
Unable to experiment within Firestone’s year-round lineup, a light went on in Brynildson’s head and Luponic Distortion was born.
A new Luponic Distortion beer comes out every 90 days (give or take a few). Every edition features the same recipe but is dry-hopped differently each time. The series allows the brewery to discover various attributes that different hops convey.
Firestone has used hops from all over the globe, from Australia and New Zealand to South Africa, as well as new hops from Germany and the Pacific Northwest. One edition, Luponic Distortion No. 006, featured hops traditionally from the Pacific Northwest but grown in Michigan.
“It’s allowed us to touch every corner of the hop-growing world,” Brynildson said. “We’ve gotten to know some of the hops pretty well, falling in love with some of them. Now that we know some of them pretty well, we can really educate and broadcast with what we feel we can get with the hops.”
Not every experiment works out, though. Some of the varieties they’ve tried weren’t up to par and have been dropped from the program. Brynildson said the success rate has been about 50/50 so far.
Starting with the Revolution No. 010, Firestone changed the branding to more easily convey the different flavors these hops bring to the beer. (The first nine often had spreadsheets full of information and notes). The latest addition to the series very clearly broadcasts the expected notes, such as mango creamsicle, peach ring, and ruby grapefruit. All of these flavors are created from hops — there are no fruit purees, a major trend in craft beer currently.
“There’s a program up in Washington, they breed hops and rub them together, and one’s strawberry, another is blueberry and another is peach,” Brynildson explains, acknowledging that it sounds hop geeky. “The parallel is the cannabis world — sister plants — where they can get crazy flavors.”
“The Luponic series has really heightened our knowledge of the hops in our closet and we’re trying to bring that knowledge and get it out there to keep people’s education growing,” he adds.
Luponic Distortion No. 010 is available now through October 2018.