As a microbrewer, you don’t put out a product that you don’t seriously believe in since the chances are, your name is going out on every 12 ounces you sell. You want a label that calls out to people, but you do not want to mislead your clientele, for they’ll be disappointed when the taste doesn’t match what was advertised. For example, you don’t throw “hop” in your brew’s title if you’re not serious about it—there had better be some hops ready and waiting to break out of that bottle or draft tap. We’ve chosen this example because one of the most common complaints beer aficionados have is that much what’s out there is stingy on the hops, and thus, lacks bite (pop open a can of Coors Lite for an example of an uneventful, “hopless” experience. Oh my word, did we just recommend that someone drink Coors? Please forgive us, as it was done only as a service to you, strictly for the sake of comparison. Geez, even the thought disturbs us…).
The creators of our first two featured beers this month proudly publicize the hop character of their hand-crafted brews, and you’d better believe that they have the flavor to justify the label. Bob and Ellie Tupper, the folks responsible for bringing you the Tupper Hop Pocket line of beers, could be considered an unlikely team as Bob is a veteran schoolteacher and Ellie works as a magazine production editor! Some interviewers have described their initial impression of the pair as “evocative of a young Mr. and Mrs. Claus.” Not the typical description of a microbrew team. However, the Tuppers have tasted and rated more than 11,000 beers during more than 33 years of marriage, retaining volumes of notebooks on their experiences. They have traveled throughout the states as well as Europe, seeking out expert brewmasters and area locals in order to expand their know-ledge of styles and flavors, all the while comparing hop balance and making a list (and checking it twice) of their favorites. They’ve shared their expertise with others, leading monthly beer tastings at a local tavern for the past 20 years.
Eventually the couple had an epiphany. As Bob puts it “We had really learned some stuff that makes beer great, but nobody was doing it in the same beer. We ought to get some brewery to do it in one beer and see if it all works out– it ought to work out!” The idea was lofty, but not out of reach. In order “to get some brewery” to take on the task, they consulted with Jerry Bailey, the head of the Old Dominion Brewing Company, located just outside Washington, DC, whom they knew through their years of public beer tastings. The consultation brought together years of the Tuppers’ experience as well as Bailey’s and his staff’s considerable brewing expertise, all right in the Tuppers’ dining room! Bob and Ellie had spread about 30 different beers on the dining room table and the Old Dominion team took notes as the couple pointed out what they considered to be the best elements such as color, aroma, hop character and maltiness from the lot. Less than two months later the first batch of Tuppers’ Hop Pocket Ale was born and quickly won the praise of Washington area locals for putting the bite back in the brew. They followed up this success with the creation of their full-bodied pilsner, also quite the rage. We tip our hats and our hop-heavy glasses to the Tuppers, and encourage you to do the same!