Friday, June 4, 2010

In Pursuit of Hop Heaven: Getting High at The Indie Hops Mt. Hood Cycling Classic

Hood River, Or. Two races under my belt, two to go. Building up a mighty thirst. Maintaining my one-brew-a -day discipline, but can’t wait to go rogue on Sunday just after I finish the windy-grindy criterium around the iconic Full Sail Brewery.

I plan to celebrate with a brew I just discovered today – Full Sail’s “Hop Pursuit.” Great minds think alike? I stopped by Full Sail after finishing the notorious Columbia Gorge time trial (can you say “intentional infliction of emotional and cardio-pulmonary distress”), hoping to chat with brewer Jim Kelter.

Exactly one year ago today, before we had a pellet mill, before we had farm contracts, I met with Jim to talk about our pursuit of noble hops. Then, Indie Hops was just a dream. He suggested I come back when we had hops.

My mission today was to get Jim’s feedback on the diameter, coarseness, oiliness, dispersal, entrainment and aroma of our hop pellets. As you may have read, we’re proud of our new “patient” pelleting mill, but the only opinion that matters is that of the brewers. Their feedback is critical in our mission to “get it right.” Our goal is nothing short of the best designed hop pellet using the best aroma hops in the world.

Jim wasn’t in, but I hope to hook up with him on Sunday in our VIP tent. Full Sail has been a long time sponsor of the Mt. Hood Cycling Classic. Their support of cycling has always impressed me. The cork-screw criterium around their brewery is like a roller coaster – you’re constantly diving, angling, swooping and sprinting. On a sunny day the course presents challenges. If it rains, better notify the local ER to bring in a few more trauma doctors.
Here’s something funny. Several months ago, we filed for a trademark on the phrase “In Hop Pursuit.” The phrase captures our mission to both breed new aroma hop varieties as well as resurrect a few of the unsung heroes. Plus it reminds me of the mixture of harnessed rage, nut crazy discipline, and unrelenting desire that helped me win a few medals as a pursuit-ist on the velodrome Back in The Day (way back in The Day!).
Thank goodness my lawyer’s instinct to file first and ask questions later has mellowed as I’ve transitioned from litigator to budding hopmeister. I’m hoping Full Sail’s Hop Pursuit is a huge success and I want to be part of that glory! Since tomorrow I’ve got to climb 10,000 feet over 92 miles with a mountain finish at Mt Hood Meadows ski resort , I’m going to hold off on draining this bottle of Hop Pursuit that’s staring at me.

I admire the label, but the ingredients are making my mouth water. From their website:

“We brewed it with the less aggressive, old school craft brewing hops– Cascade, Willamette, and Mt. Hood– to celebrate more of the hop flavor and less of the hop bitterness. These give the beer a nice and fresh citrus herbal character without a lot of intensity; instead it has a softly flavorful character with touches of orange and lemon. We dry hopped for two weeks to amplify these delicate hop flavors.” (

Yes! Here’s to the “old school” greats, brought to you by the People’s Hopmeister, Dr. Al Haunold, my hop Svengali. Normally, before a big race, I’d be nervous . Plus, since I won this race last year, I’d be feeling the pressure to repeat (see cool shot of this hop-fiend on point: ).

But not this year. Knowing I’ve got a 22 ounce bottle of Hop Pursuit waiting for me at the finish line virtually ensures that even if the race is pure wicked Hell, soon enough I’ll be entering hop heaven.

Praise Hell. Get to Hop Heaven.

Roger Worthington
Reporting from the Indie Hops Mt. Hood Cycling Classic, Hood River, Or. Hop On!

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