Good Beer Hunting

Big Hops and Micromalsting — A Beer Birthed Over Earbuds

When I first met Chris Schooley of Troubadour Maltings in Fort Collins, Colorado, I was instantly taken with his quick way of talking, his smart smile, and his ability to pack in a ton of information into just a couple of minutes. In a lot of ways, he's the natural salesman the micromalsting niche really needs. I came back the next day to record a podcast episode with him.  He's since gone on to help kick off a a project called SOWN.


I wasn't the only one charmed by his intense focus on a relatively undiscovered new trend in brewing, either. I received tons of Twitter messages, emails, and texts from people whose minds had just been opened to something new. A couple of those people were Jude and Jeremiah from Hop Butcher here in Chicago. 

Hop Butcher is known for a few things: big hazy IPAs (really, really good ones), big adjunct Stouts (they poured an incredible Coffee Stout at Uppers & Downers last year), and beautiful illustrations by our friend and collaborator Dan Grzeca. (We just added a couple new prints of his to the shop, actually.) 

One thing I don't think of Hop Butcher for is being a candidate for Chris' micromalting. As he readily admits, these malts aren't cheap to produce, so most brewers tend to use them in beers with profiles that will show them off distinctly, or in a small enough percentage that they get the character they want, without having to replace their whole grain bill. 

But you can't fight inspiration when it strikes. And so Dun Dun Dun showed up on my desk, a Double IPA with Amarillo, Citra, and Galaxy, pouring as big and bright as ever. And Craniac, a Nelson Sauvin and Enigma-hopped double showed up as well. And while it doesn't say it on the can, these aren't exactly collaborations—the beer exists as a way to trial some of Troubadour's small-batch maltings. And I'm thrilled. 

Kudos to the guys from Hop Butcher for giving it a whirl. I don't know Troubadour's particular malts in a way that I can specifically identify them in the beers yet (especially with all that hop action), but I can tell you they're lovely and the texture is noticeably luscious. I reached out to Jude for the rest of the details.:

"The story is that we make a lot of hoppy beer, so we like to differentiate from beer to beer with the hops we use. The giants, the hard-to-gets, the up-and-comers, and the experimentals. And for this one we finally decided to make the call and throw all the monsters in one: Galaxy, Citra, and Amarillo. 

We wanted to do that with malt as well. We had heard of craft maltsters and then we listened to your story on Troubadour awhile back and that set it in motion on who we wanted to go with. We use Pils malt and white wheat in a lot of our Double IPAs and we liked the sound of what Chris was offering with his Pevec Pils (used in Craniac) and his Antero White Wheat (used in Dun Dun Dun), so we gave it a go. 

Plus, beer aside, emotionally we like going with someone who is grinding it out just like us and making a quality product. I like the idea that in my head there is terroir involved and that grain has been in the Colorado ground, so for me that’s woven into the story of that beer. There’s a piece of Colorado in it."