Sam Calagione on 90 Minute
Sam Calagione on 90 Minute
In 2000 we brewed our very first test batch of 90-Minute IPA. It was inspired by a cooking show I saw, in which the chef was making a soup. As the soup simmered, he added little pinches of crushed pepper throughout the entire 90 minutes cooking time, explaining that by adding the pepper that way, the flavors, the nuances, the complexity would be woven into the taste and aroma of the soup with more subtly and approachability than if you added that same volume of pepper all at once. I had an epiphany that maybe I could apply that technique to brewing.
Traditionally, hops are added twice in large volumes during the brewing process – once early in the boil to add bitterness and then again at the end of the boil for aroma. I thought that maybe if I added hops the entire time the beer was boiling, measured out in tiny and equal increments, I would be able to add a lot more hops while keeping the flavors complex and subtle without banging the drinker over the head with bitterness.
I drove my pickup truck out to the local Salvation Army store, where I buy my flannel farmer shirts, because I remembered that on the bottom shelf in the toy department was an old vibrating football game of a design that a lot of people born in the 60’s and 70’s will probably remember. It was still there and I bought it.
I took that football game back to the brewery and put a pair of two-by-fours on the outer edges of the gameboard on the long sides. Then I drilled holes into the bottom of a five gallon bucket, duct taped the bucket to the two-by-fours and to the football game itself, and filled the bucket with pelletized hops. Propping the bucket up on a stepladder positioned at the perfect height for the purpose, just over the lip of the opening at the top of our boil kettle, I found that by changing the angle of the football game and the bucket slightly, I could control the speed at which the pelletized hops vibrated out of the bucket and down the football field into the boiling beer. My goal was to have the pellets drop into the boiling beer, one at a time, continuously for the 90-minute boil.
That was the day Dogfish Head’s innovation of continual hopping was born. And it worked.
By continually adding hops to a beer in small increments, I found that you can make a beer which is intensely hoppy without being crushingly bitter.
If we added that same weight and volume of hops in two stages, as was the standard in brewing, 90 Minute IPA would be unpleasantly and lingeringly bitter.
While my invention worked initially, within a couple weeks the game broke, so we had to manually add a pinch of hops every minute that we brewed that beer while we worked on designing the next generation of hopping mechanism. The arduousness of this process processes spurred us to quickly improvise a new continual hopping machine, which we dubbed Sir-Hopsa-Lot.
We’re on our fourth iteration of continual hopping devices now, but each has truly been an invention! It’s a rare experience to invent something in an industry today that’s recognized as part of the spirit of our brand, and our flagship beer.
A version of that first continual hopping vibrating football game along with our original 15 gallon boil kettle can now be found in the permanent collection of the Smithsonian, the very same collection that houses the Wright Brothers’ plane and the Apollo moon landing capsules. All of us at Dogfish Head are very proud that our continual hopping machine will forever be alongside these incredible American invention and you can experience the sensory distinction of our continual hopping process every time you enjoy a bottle or pint of 90 Minute IPA.
Flagship beers were chosen by the individual writers with no input from the #FlagshipFebruary partners or sponsor breweries.