Today many beer lovers will celebrate IPA Day, a beer holiday of monumental enjoyment for hopheads around the world.
IPA — which stands for India Pale Ale — is a beer style encompassing characteristics such as a resinous, citrusy, floral, piney smell and taste due to the hops used in creating it.
Established in 2011 by social media personalities Ashley Routson and Ryan Ross, “IPA Day is a universal movement created to unite the voices of craft beer enthusiasts, bloggers and brewers worldwide, using social media as the common arena for connecting the conversation together.”
Imbibers who check in to any IPA on Untappd will unlock the special IPA Day badge for their efforts.
Michigan is the perfect place for hop lovers. We have an abundance of growers, brewers and enthusiasts of all things hoppy. For non-beer drinkers there’s even Hop Soda, brought to you by Grand Rapids-based Proper Soda.
Hop heads galore
Ann Arbor resident Amy Whitaker loves the beer style so much she has garnered the nickname IPAmy. “I’ve always been a fan of the hop-overloaded west coast IPAs but I’ve also learned to appreciate the more balanced midwest style since moving to Michigan,” she said.
Whitaker is finding that her choice — Pacific Northwest hops, such as Chinook and Cascade — are also grown locally and used in some of her favorite Michigan brews. Her current list of must-haves include Kuhnhenn DRIPA, Greenbush Brother Benjamin, Dark Horse Double Crooked Tree and Bell’s Hopslam.
Robert “Wob” Wanhatalo, brewer at Mitten Brewing Company in Grand Rapids, is also a hop farmer. His farm, Elo Hop Farm, is a quarter-acre operation located in Elo on the Keweenaw Peninsula. He currently grows 17 varieties, of which 13 are trials to see what grows best in the area. So far Cascade, Centennial and Chinook are his most established varieties.
“In the past I have used my hops in a home brew capacity as a test to see how they taste and smell, but this year I’d like to see them used commercially,” he said. “Michigan is unique in the hop world, it’s a great state to grow in and offers good, slight variances in similar hops grown elsewhere.”
Wob’s favorite IPA from his brewery is Country Strong, while Dark Horse Brewing Company’s Smells Like A Safety Meeting tops his list of IPAs brewed by fellow Michigan brewers.
Detroit-area musician George Heritier has declared his devotion by writing a song called “I’m A Hop Head.” He’ll be toasting fellow hop lovers with his go-to IPA, Kuhnhenn Brewing Company’s DRIPA. George said he’s becoming a fan of Black IPAs as well, “the more bitter, the better,” especially Short’s Brewing Company’s Bludgeon Yer Eye.
You can listen to Heritier’s song on YouTube, and find him performing at various locations throughout the state.
Hop farms try to keep up with growing demand
Hop Head Farms in Hickory Corners is the project of Bonnie and Jeff Steinman, two IPA lovers who turned their passion and talents into a business. They grow nine varieties on their 30 acre site in addition to providing sales of hops from several more acres on partner farms. Many Michigan breweries use Hop Head Farms’ product in their beers, including Bell’s, Arcadia, Founders, Greenbush and Kuhnhenn.
“I love Hopnoxxious from Walldorff Brew Pub. They are our longest supporters. It is a great IPA. Osgood has a double that is excellent — Best Day Ever,” Bonnie said. “It’s hard to keep up. Our goal is to always have the best hops — not the most, however. We want to increase acreage, but wisely.”
Bonnie sees Michigan-grown Cascade and Chinook being in higher demand due to the distinct character they possess, attributable to terrior.
Another Michigan couple that has embraced hop growing as a way of life is Brian and Amy Tennis of New Mission Organics in Omena. They are also a vital part of Michigan Hop Alliance, an organization whose focus is to be a resource for Michigan hop growers.
New Mission Organics is comprised of 30 acres, all of which are organic.
“10 acres is planted right now and we are developing another 10 exclusively for two Michigan breweries. One is Greenbush and the other one I cannot name just yet.” Brian said. He notes his favorite IPA made with hops from his hops is Grand Rapids Brewing Company’s New Mission Organic IPA — but he’ll be toasting today with Dark Horse Brewing’s Double Crooked Tree and Greenbush’s Rage.
There is no shortage of impressive IPAs to celebrate with, so cheers to IPA Day!