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Hopping to help: Beer Creek Brewing creates IPA to benefit volunteer fire department

Beer Creek Brewing Company has brewed Get to da Hoppa IPA to benefit a local fire department. (Courtesy of Beer Creek Brewing Company)

An India Pale Ale made with 100% New Mexico ingredients will soon benefit a volunteer fire department.

Beer Creek Brewing Co. has brewed up Get to da Hoppa IPA. A portion of the proceeds will go toward the Turquoise Trail Fire Department. The beer will be released on May 14 and will only be available at the brewery, at 3810 N.M. 14 in Santa Fe.

“So the Chinook hop is what we use in that beer,” Beer Creek co-owner Rich Headley said. “And it’s also the name of the helicopter, the Chinook helicopter, which they use to fight fires. And it’s also what Arnold Schwarzenegger said in ‘Predator’ was ‘Get to the choppa.’ And so it’s Get to da Hoppa. It’s really kind of fun.”

The connection to the Turquoise Trail Fire Department stems from Beer Creek’s relationship with local hop grower Kevin Barrows, who runs La Capilla Hops Farm. Headley who also operates Crossed Sabers Hops with business partner Matt Oler helped Barrows start up his farm a couple years ago. Barrows is a 30-year retired veteran of the Turquoise Trail Fire Department. He retired a couple years ago after serving as chief.

“(Barrows) started his little hop farm as a hobby as a result of having some free time,” Headley said. “And we helped him and we’re very good friends. … Just recently, he took 50 pounds of his hops to (Central New Mexico Community College). They pelletized it, and the pelletization is the first time anybody’s ever taken New Mexico hops of any quality and actually be able to pelletize them and still remain in high quality. … He donated a batch of it to us so that we could create a beer to raise some money for the Turquoise Trail Fire Department.”

As a result, Beer Creek brewed 10 barrels of Get to da Hoppa. The brewery will donate 50 cents for every pint it sells of the beer to the fire department.

“Now, the other special thing about this beer, Beer Creek already has several beers that are 100% all New Mexico ingredients,” Headley said. “We’re definitely the only company that can say that in New Mexico history. And it’s related to our relationships with all these hop farmers, and of course, our background being hop farmers. But this, an IPA, is a little bit of a stretch. Normally, you wouldn’t make an IPA with New Mexico hops, because we don’t have a lot of them. They’re limited. We’re limited in how many we get every year. And because of this pelletization that La Capilla and CNM did, it allowed us to do this.”

Brewing the IPA with pelletized hops is unique for Beer Creek, which usually uses full-flower hops.

“The hops are used for bittering and flavor and aroma in beer,” Beer Creek head brewer Jami Nordby said. “They grow on vines that grow up to 30 feet per year. … The actual hop flower is what we use. A mature plant can yield 1 to 2 pounds of hop flowers, which contain lupulin, which is the bittering element and some of the aroma compound for making beer. … The pelletization actually kind of grinds the flowers into small pieces and then packs them into little pieces that are easier to store. And they’re also more uniform to the bittering and the flavor qualities of beer. So brewers prefer to use pellets just for ease of use storage. It makes it more economical and a little more uniform on the beers that you’re creating.”

Hop growing is a fledgling industry in New Mexico. However, the hop industry in the state is gradually beginning to grow. Headley, who is the deputy director of the New Mexico Hop Growers Association, is happy to promote New Mexico hops as well as other locally grown ingredients. Beer Creek also utilizes barley grown by Schwebach Farms in Moriarty.

“If we can brew beer with local ingredients, kind of grow that part of the economy, ensure that we can create really good products with locally grown ingredients, that helps the entire state,” Nordby said. “It helps our own economy. … We have quality products that can compete on the international market.”

Get to da Hoppa is floral and has some surprising fruity notes.

“This one’s a little lighter, because we’re working with the local hop, local barley,” Headley said of the IPA’s hue. “It’s a little bit different. But it’s super-flavorful.”

In addition to Get to da Hoppa, Beer Creek is unveiling an imperial series consisting of four beers.

“They are just phenomenal,” Headley said. “They have great labels. We’re actually barrel aging each of those in whiskey barrels and some bourbon barrels, and so those are going to be released at some point this year, once their flavor profiles complete in these beautiful bombers, 22-ounce bombers. It’s kind of fun. You know, we’ve got a lot going on different flavors. But there’s a real consistency between all the beers, and that’s nice.”

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