More than a half-dozen years ago, Firestone Walker brewmaster Matt Brynildson paused in the middle of a conversation about the relationship between agriculture and beer and nodded toward Eric Toft, a Wyoming native who has brewed beer in Bavaria for more than 20 years. He said he wished he could be “as connected as [Toft] is.” Toft regularly visits the farmers who grow the hops and barley he uses to brew Private Landbrauerei Schönram beers.
Late last summer, Brynildson made that happen, spending much of the hop harvest season traveling throughout the Hallertau hop growing region, visiting a dozen relatively small farms, creating an album of spectacular hop photos and—as important—portraits of families who have been growing hops for multiple generations. “I can’t believe I didn’t do that before,” he said shortly after he returned.
Firestone Walker has turned his hop odyssey into a 32-page booklet, “Hoofing It in Hallertau,” available at the brewery website. It serves as an advertisement for Easy Jack, because, ostensibly, Brynildson went to Bavaria to assure that the brewery would have enough of two new German hop varieties, Mandarina Bavaria and Hüll Melon, to brew it regularly. But the booklet is not just clever marketing, because Brynildson rather obviously came home with more than just hops.