We love a great story behind a craft beverage.
So when Quaff On Brewing in Nashville, Ind., invites you to
harvest hops for a special-edition beer, you say yes.
Here's how to go about your hoppy adventure.
Story and photos by Jonna Mary Schwarz
First, head out to Brown County, and turn down a dusty dirt road to Waltz Valley Farms. Awe in amazement at the raw beauty of the inherited family farm that began two generations ago.
Be greeted by the farm's co-owner, Sue Waltz, and her colorful dress with matching apron. She doesn't know you, but as soon as she realizes her husband invited you, you are best buds. Find out that her husband, Mike Waltz, is part of the group who was integral to partnering with Quaff On Brewing, and who made initial connections to utilize the hops for the special-edition brew. It is the only crop on the farm, so it's the flagship.
Meander around, grab a beer from the Quaff On keg selection. Check out the hop vines growing straight up into the blue sky. A hundred Cascade hop plants from the first season, 2014, and 100 more for 2015 along with 100 Columbus hop plants also planted in 2015.
Follow a herd of family and friends of the Waltz's to the ready-to-pick vines. Cheer as they cut the first vine, and smile as they pose for photographs of the family, two sisters and their brother, along with their spouses, gathered and content with the collaboration developed over the past two years with their local brewery.
Help haul hops on a flatbed pickup to a red tent with a picnic table beneath. Begin to pick hops. You know the hop is ready because it crinkles like tissue paper and snaps in the middle when bent. Pluck each bud from the vine and plop it in a tin bucket. Measure the hops frequently on a small silver scale, and add them to a black barrel nearby. Wave at the woman making hop wreaths off to the side of the table with the depleted vines.
Talk with Quaff On's brewer, David, who will be utilizing all types of hops you just picked to make Aquaffalypse, the brewery's special twist on an IPA made annually for Quafftoberfest, a four-day celebration coming up this weekend.
Note that the beer similar to Hare Trigger has already been brewed to get that alpha acid bitterness, and will be dry-hopped for one week with the Waltz hops to gather all the flavor of the local crop and create about 15 barrels of beer labeled with art designed by Quaff On owner Jeff McCabe's daughter. Have Jeff show you the sweet new art.
On your way to grab a second beer from Quaff On's stand, pop in to the gazebo where a local home-brewer from Indianapolis is explaining the process of fermentation. Ask him about this year's hops and split a brownie with his 5-year-old.
When you hear Sue Waltz at the microphone on the stage at the center of the gathering, stop to listen. Feel excited when she tells Kenan Rainwater of the Indiana Boys that he will have to pause his Americana bluegrass tunes for the announcement of Quaff On's tapping of their pumpkin ale. Name: Stick a Fork In It.
If you decide not to camp with the rest of the group, walk to your car parked to the side of the hop garden. Look up at the empty ropes strewn between poles, pass a hand along your stinging arms and fingers, and notice the taste on the buds of your tongue, the first hints of Aquaffalypse.
Try Aquaffalypse at Quaff On's Quafftoberfest gathering, this Saturday afternoon at its Bloomington location. The party will feature live music and brews.