There’s something rugged and romantic about the Wild West.
Beyond the dusty plains and horseback rides under the gleaming sun, there’s an ideal of self sufficiency, born from the created reality of Manifest Destiny. It wasn’t necessarily about going it alone, but recognizing the opportunity to make something of oneself in the midst of everyone else doing the same.
To seize a moment when odds were stacked against you.
Kind of like business.
“We were all standing around one day, lamenting hops,” said Lonerider Brewing Company CEO Sumit Vohra, recalling a conversation that led to the creation of a potentially record-setting beer. “I’m saying to my team, ‘I can’t believe we’ve got to a point where we can’t find hops.”
Of course, that’s not entirely true. Vohra and his brewery staff could certainly find hops to use for their Shotgun Betty Hefeweizen, Sweet Josie Brown Ale, Peacemaker Pale Ale and even their IPA, Addie’s Revenge. It was just the fact things were getting a little harder.
“Our brewers have to predict our production levels two years down the road to contract hops now,” Zohra said. “That’s the business reality of it.”
Which led to a decision that may have been part parody of the situation or part marking inspiration, but really just an excuse to play.
It was a fitting chance to explore the outlaw theme of Lonerider.
It was an opportunity to create a traditional, American beer, utterly untraditional in its conception.
- The IPA has 77 different hop varieties sourced from seven different countries, ranging from a few ounces of New Zealand’s Wai-iti hop to pounds of classic American varieties like Citra.
- Hop additions went to the extreme. Six additions took place during a 77 minute boil, then seven days of dry hopping with different varieties, followed by 14 more varieties for an additional seven days.
- It clocks in at 7.7 percent ABV and 77 IBUs.
To source all the hops, Vohra and his brewers conspired to use eight different hop suppliers, from online retailers spread across the country to local options in Durham and Raleigh, North Carolina. By their count, Lonerider staff could find 84 different varieties, but chose 77 to play off their theme and the famous Western movie, Magnificent 7.
“Some of the hops we couldn’t get in large quantities because as soon as we ordered a little bit, the stores would say they’re out of stock,” Vohra said.
Lemon Drop, Huell Melon, Mosaic, Saphir, Nelson Sauvin and more started rolling in. Using alpha acid content and flavor descriptions of each hop, brewers worked to create a recipe to match up qualities as best they could for hop additions at 10, 20, 30, 40, 50 and 77 minutes during the beer’s boiling process.
“We grouped hops carefully so that each addition contained varieties that complemented and enhanced each other,” said Lonerider’s brewer in charge of the creation, David Nelson.
Before he knew what the recipe might offer in terms of taste, Vohra did recognize the beer’s potential in another way. In mid-May, two months before the beer’s release, Vohra submitted an application to the Guinness Book of World Records to gain recognition for creating a beer with the most hops ever used in a batch.
While the assumption was Magnificent 77 would be a one-time only brew, Vohra said he’d be happy to recreate it for Book of World Records officials, should the need arise.
But for those hop-loving local drinkers who couldn’t get enough of the 15-barrel experiment, Vohra said Magnificent 77 would ride again. Assuming he can find enough hops, of course.
“I don’t know if we could find 77 different hops next year,” he said, “but we’ll see how many we can get.”
“Don’t drink to get drunk. Drink to enjoy life.” — Jack Kerouac