Local Harvest equals fresh, hoppy beer at Donum Dei

Oct 3, 2018 at 9:53 am
Kentucky brewers

There aren’t a lot of hop farms in the Louisville area or even the region, for that matter, but as they begin to creep in, we may find new chances to drink local beer made with fresh hops.

Most hops are grown out West, largely in Washington state, and then pelletized and shipped. But some beers, such as Founders Harvest Ale, are made with hops pulled straight from the vine and placed directly into the beer.

A local example is available now from Donum Dei Brewstillery in New Albany in the form of 812 Nouveau Harvest IPA, made with fresh or “wet” hops, grown at Eight One Two Farms in Nashville, Indiana, about 90 miles north of Louisville.

Richard Otey, owner of Donum Dei, said 812 Nouveau is basically an Amarus — one of the brewery’s core beers — brewed with fresh Cascade hops from Eight One Two. If a nouveau (French for “new”) wine is made with newly-harvested grapes, then 812 Nouveau is its beer counterpart, he said. In other words, it’s a first product that offers a glimpse into what’s to come from the harvest.

“The farmers drove them here themselves on the day we brewed,” Otey said. Now, that’s fresh.

812 Nouveau turned out to be a nicely balanced beer that, for my palate, drinks like a well done American pale ale (one of my favorite beer styles, for what it’s worth). There’s a moderate sweetness in the malt character, with a hint of caramel, backed by notes of grapefruit, a distinctive earthy quality and a moderately spicy hop bitterness on the finish that lingers for a bit. Solid stuff and pretty classic flavors for a Cascade single-hop brew.

Otey said he believes this year’s crop of Cascade hops from Eight One Two is more earthy than last year’s, although Cascade is pretty universally known and used. In other words, if you’ve ever had an APA, you’ve likely tasted Cascade hops.

“That’s what we do in Indiana,” Otey said, regarding the growing of the hop. “We like Cascade.”

That said, Cascade is also well known as a hearty hop that’s pretty easy to grow. That helps, as does the fact that all breweries use Cascade for either flavor, aromatics or both.

“It’s like the Two Row of hops,” Otey said, referring to the common barley type often used in brewing beer. “Everybody uses Cascade. It’s the most versatile hop.”

812 Nouveau is available at the Donum Dei taproom, but also was distributed around southern Indiana in kegs and will be the first bottled Donum Dei beer to go into distribution. It’s such a local product that even the label design was done in-house. Otey said he shipped about 150 cases worth of four-packs out for distribution and some were held back for sale at the brewery as well.

And if you get your hands on a four-pack, don’t let it hang around in your fridge for too long — hops are best enjoyed fresh.

“And you’re getting the terroir of the region, as opposed to that of the Northwest,” Otey pointed out. “It’s just the freshness. This year’s 812 is so much more balanced [than 2017’s]. This may be one of my favorite beers.”

Craft Beer Throwdown is Oct. 11

The Craft Beer Throwdown returns Oct. 11 to the Louisville Water Tower with several local breweries creating special beers for the event, which is a fundraiser for the Coalition for the Homeless.

Gravely Brewing Co., Falls City Brewing Co. and Mile Wide Beer Co. are among the six breweries that will compete at the festival. Another competitor is Holsopple Brewing, which brings a Mango Milkshake IPA to the Throwdown. A milkshake IPA is a new-ish style of IPA that adds lactose to give it a thick, creamy body.

Monnik Beer Co., meanwhile, rounds out the event with a Peach Grisette. Monnik Brewer Scott Hand said the Belgian-style beer features the addition of 300 pounds of peaches at the end of the brew. (That’s a lot of peaches.)

Attendees get to try all six beers and vote on which brewery should be crowned the Throwdown champion. In addition, the first 500 attendees get a commemorative pint glass, and commemorative growlers will be for sale in case you want to take home 64 ounces of your favorite beer at the event. In addition, food will be available for purchase, and games such as giant Jenga, giant checkers and cornhole will be available to play.

The event is 6 to 10 p.m., and tickets are $20 in advance. Tickets at the door will be $25.