Brewer Interview: Sam Olson of Fourpenny House on the Pink Boots Hop Blend
Our upcoming March Hop Drop is the Pink Boots Blend from Yakima Chief. This is a one-time blend, created by members of the Pink Boots Society last fall and released through a pre-order in January and February. The winning blend this year contains Sabro, Loral, Glacier, Mosaic and Simcoe.
The blend shipped out a couple of weeks ago, so that breweries could host collaboration brew days on International Women’s Day. This year that fall on Friday, March 8th this year.
Some of the breweries will be hosting female homebrewers, some will be collaborations between professional brewers. Some will be both. There is a map up of all the breweries, on four continents, participating in the Pink Boots Collaboration Brew Day here.
Check it out to see which of your locals are participating. Don’t forget to check in with them in a few weeks as well to see if you can try some of the beer.
Sam Olson of Fourpenny House was part of the trio that came up with the winning blend, along with Natasha Peiskar of Last Best Brewing & Distilling and Barbara McDonald from Dean & Company Brewing. Sam graciously answered several questions about the blend, the process of coming up with a hop blend and the Pink Boots Society:
How did you first get into brewing?
I was going to college at NC State for a Chemical Engineering, and all of these craft breweries started popping up in the area. My friends and I would go to every new place we could find and take a tour. I just fell in love with all of the science behind making this delicious beverage, so I started homebrewing.
How long have you been brewing?
I’ve been professionally brewing for four years, but if you include the good old homebrewing days it has been closer to 10 years.
Where did you learn? Did you have a mentor before you became head brewer?
I actually started by going to UCSD’s brewing certificate program. At the time, in order to complete the program, you had to complete an internship. I found a home at ChuckAlek Independent Brewers. I worked there for nine months, and then decided to continue my education through the UC Davis Master Brewers Program. It was an incredible program that quadrupled my beer knowledge. After completing it I came back to ChuckAlek and took over as head brewer for the owner. After about a year and a half of fighting the good fight in the San Diego beer scene, the owners decided to close ChuckAlek, but I learned a lot there. That experience has allowed me to come out swinging with some great beer at Fourpenny House.
Can you tell us a little about the beer made at Fourpenny House?
We are a Scottish brewpub, so our flagship and number one selling beer is an 80 Schilling Scottish Ale called Fourpenny Ale. It’s full bodied with notes of caramel, toffee, and a pumpernickel toast. It has a mild bitterness, but it’s just enough to cleanse the pallet and make you want to take another sip.
However, we currently have nine different styles of beer on tap, and it’s continuing to grow every week. We have four core beers, and the rest are just rotating styles and variations. If we come up with a hit we will continue to brew it for our guests, but at the end of the day my goal is to brew the highest quality and best product (no matter the style) that I possibly can.
What kinds of beers are your favorites to brew?
My personal favorite thing to do is recreating old styles of beer. I love to learn about where they came from, why they exist, and who they were originally made for. I want to respect the heritage, but also tweak the style for today’s pallets.
When you set out to design a recipe, how do you choose your hops?
The first thing I look at is the origin of the beer. In general, try to choose hops that come from within that region. However, since I’m on a really small scale I have to buy a large amount of individual varieties of hops, and I also buy only spot hops (what’s available from crops after all of the contracts for larger breweries have been filled). Therefore, cross utilization of the hops that I have in my inventory is really important, but also using hop varieties in unexpected ways to get unique flavors from that hop is very important.
I personally love doing hop teas. I take a cup of water and put two pellets in, and then I’ll boil it up for x amount of time and see what type of flavor comes from different heat exposure, or even no heat exposure. This process really helps me understand each variety, and its potential.
Can you give us some background on the Pink Boots Society for someone not familiar with its mission?
Pink Boots’ mission is to assist, inspire, and encourage women beer professionals through education. Women in the brewing industry are a minority. Pink Boots creates opportunities for this minority group to come together, learn from one another, and to build a professional network. It holds conferences, local meetings, and offers scholarships all in order to help women educate themselves further and stand out in the industry.
How did you first get involved with the PBS?
When I first moved to San Diego, I was looking for just any job in the beer industry. One day when I was out networking and someone mentioned the society to me. I went to a meeting local meeting and have been active ever since.
Have you been involved in the process of creating the hop blends before?
No, I hadn’t. This was one of the main reasons why I wanted to attend the GABF (the Great American Beer Festival) meeting. Since I have only worked for smaller breweries, we don’t go up to Yakima Valley to pick out hops or specific crops to suit our needs. We just use the best of what we can get our hands on, so I wanted to experience what some of the big guys get to do and learn about some of the new varieties coming out this year.
What is the process for creating a hop blend like? I don’t think that’s something a lot of homebrewers get the chance to do.
A Yakima Chief Hops’ sales representative brought 16 different hop varieties in the T 90 pellet form. We went through and rubbed the different samples in our hands in order to heat up it up and release its aroma, and then smelled it to see what we thought. Then as a group we voted on the five varieties that we all liked the most and wanted to include in the Pink Boots blend.
Once the varieties were decided, we then all voted on what were the main characteristics of the blend should be. As a group we decided the goal was to make a hop blend that would have an earthy bitterness, but it also had juicy/tropical dry hopping and whirlpool characteristics using the five hops that were already chosen.
How did the three of you work together to create the blend?
There weren’t any specific groups assigned. We were all working on our own blends, but then Natasha and Barbara started collaborating. Once they came up with a blend that they were happy with they. They had other people smell the blend. I smelled it, and was just hit in the face with green bell pepper. I could not smell anything else. They reduced the amount of Mosaic, and the green pepper disappeared. That blend ended up winning it.
Anything else we should know?
I hope the hop club enjoys the Pink Boots blend, and are able to utilize it to make some amazing beer. Cheers!
Fourpenny House: http://fourpennyhouse.com/
Last Best Brewing & Distilling: https://lastbestbrewing.com/ (I love that they’re in Albeerta, Canada)
Dean & Company Brewing: https://www.coloradobrewerylist.com/brewery/dean-co-brewing/
Yakima Chief Hops: https://www.yakimachief.com/2019-pink-boots-blend-released/
The Pink Boots Society: https://www.pinkbootssociety.org/