“It forces you to step outside the box,” says Favio Garcia, co-founder of Lost Rhino Brewing in Ashburn, who has done five pro-am collaborations this year. His latest, a triple IPA dubbed Hop3Star that clocks in at 10.1 percent alcohol and about 150 bitterness units, was released to the distributor on Monday. The Facebook page for Westover Market in Arlington promises a debut party Nov. 15.
Hop3Star had its genesis at Westover Market, where Lost Rhino brewer John Peters, in a conversation with store manager Devin Hicks and a couple of the regulars, offered, “We should do a beer with you guys!” Hicks is a big fan of Bell’s Hopslam, a much-in-demand winter release that smooths over its massive hop content with a little honey. He suggested making an IPA with mango, which would provide fermentable sugar and mesh with the fruity Pacific Northwest hops.
Steve Marler, who has been home-brewing for 20 years, whipped up a recipe and did a five-gallon pilot batch at his Arlington home.
“It was like brewing in the Third World!” joked Peters, referring to Marler’s homemade gear, which included parts fashioned from a metal iced tea container.
Scaling up the recipe for Lost Rhino’s 25-barrel brew house required adjustments. Two hop varieties, Citra and Nelson Sauvin, weren’t available in sufficient quantities and had to be replaced. (Altogether, eight types of hops were used.) Afraid of what the fibrous mango pulp would do to their equipment, the brewers pureed the fruit and made a syrup using Belgian candi sugar.
The 12-hour brew day was anything but glamorous for the 10 bar buddies who showed up.
“Our big beer clogged up the mash tun,” recalls Marler. The amateur brewers had to attack the gooey grain with rakes to coax out the sugar-rich liquid. Garcia added rice hulls to help strain the mixture. Then the hops (150 pounds in the boil) created another clog en route to the fermenters.
Larry Jackson, a novice brewer and professed hop fanatic, was unfazed: “We were exhausted, but we’d do it all over again in a heartbeat.”
Alexander Bonfield, a bartender at Westover’s pub and beer garden, came up with the logo: a guitar-strumming hop. Look for 22-ounce bottles to follow kegs as soon as label approval comes through, promises Garcia.
Lost Rhino is hardly unique among area breweries in enlisting talented amateurs. Plank II, a doppelbock aged on eucalyptus and yellow poplar that Heavy Seas Beer in Halethorpe, Md., released last spring, was co-brewed by Maryland home brewer Les White. Last month, DuClaw Brewing released the winner in its annual home-brew competition, dubbed H.E.R.O. for “honest, excellent, robust, original”: a chocolate-chipotle stout by Vincent and Suzanne Powers of Nottingham, Md. (A few kegs and 22-ounce bottles should be lingering in the Baltimore area.)