Two trends are developing simultaneously among the upper crust of the craft brewing scene — selling large stakes to larger companies and investors or selling smaller stakes to their own employees. Much time is devoted to talking about the former, but the latter is just as worthy of time and celebration. So, hey, why not make a beer for it and celebrate?
This October, Harpoon and Deschutes will release a collaboration called EHOP — beers brewed by employee-owners in celebration of brewing independence. The story began, in part, in August 2014 when the Harpoon Brewery announced that it was transitioning to employee ownership. When the news broke, employee-owners from Deschutes Brewery were among the first to extend an enthusiastic welcome to the ESOP (Employee Stock Ownership Plan) club.
Two versions of the EHOP beer will be released: One brewed at Harpoon in Boston and the other brewed at Deschutes in Bend, Ore. Harpoon brewer Ethan Elston and Deschutes brewer Ryan Schmiege collaborated on both recipes. While each beer is unique, both recipes include employee-grown hops (EHOPs) and local ingredients.
Even better, those folks along with fellow ESOP breweries New Belgium, Odell and Left Hand will be throwing a party at the Great American Beer Fest to celebrate the release and brewery independence.
The Harpoon EHOP will be released as part of the brewery’s limited batch 100 Barrel Series. Harpoon employees contributed their homegrown hops to the recipe, which include Cascade, Challenger, Willamette and Tettnang hop varieties. The combination of Caramel and Midnight Wheat malt gives this beer a sturdy malt character, while locally sourced sage and thyme add a bit of spice. The result is a full-bodied amber ale with a malty sweetness and lingering spiciness. ABV 8 percent/IBUs 35.
“It has been quite a year for us at Harpoon as we’ve transitioned to employee ownership,” said Harpoon CEO and co-founder Dan Kenary. “It’s a complicated process, and we couldn’t have done it without the support that we received from Deschutes and other craft brewers who had chosen this path before us. We’re extremely proud to be employee-owned — being an independent brewer is something we value deeply and believe it’s at the core of what makes the craft beer industry so great for both brewers and beer lovers. This beer is a high-five to our fellow independent American craft breweries and their employee-owners.”
Deschutes is brewing its version of the EHOP beer using the same malt and hop profile. Several of the whole flower hops being used in the beer are growing in front of the brewery’s main Bend, Ore., facility and were harvested by employees to add to the beer. This beer will also be an amber ale, brewed with Oregon sage and thyme. ABV 8 percent/IBUs 35.
Ryan Schmiege, assistant brewmaster for Deschutes, traveled to Boston to collaborate on the Harpoon EHOP. He said, “This is the perfect way to celebrate employee ownership for both of our breweries. I had a fantastic time working with the brewing team at Harpoon, and it was interesting to see how many similarities our two breweries have, even though we are across the country from one another. I’m proud that we’ve come together on this collaboration to celebrate our shared employee-ownership culture.”