Tag: dave hoops

Bev-Craft Seeks to Improve Minnesota Beer

Tim Nelson and Dave Hoops left Fitger’s Brewhouse over a year ago with hopes of improving the quality of Minnesota beer by starting a consulting business called Bev-Craft. A “think tank” is what they like to call it. Dave Hoops who is the Director of Brewing Operations is excited to lend his experience to new breweries seeking to improve their beer. “Unless you’re someone like Sierra Nevada, you should always be trying to make better beer” says Hoops.

Dave and a team of cicerones tasted over a hundred beers (locally made) at the state fair and gave feedback, positive and negative to breweries around the state. The goal was to give honest advice to some of the breweries looking to improve their beer. “I’m overly opinionated” he said. “But I’m fair.” Dave also serves as a judge at the Great American Beer Festival which gives him a head up on most brewers (in my book) here in Minnesota.

Tim Nelson acts as CEO while Dave Hoops heads up the brewing operations. Brad Nelson (Tim’s brother) is in charge of the branding while Paul Christensen is responsible for sales. “Basically we’re here to help breweries start up. We’re also specialized consultants. That doesn’t mean that I’m approaching them. People that have a question, we’re there to help” says Hoops.

In an overcrowded local market, this can only be a good thing. Especially with all of the sub-par beer being produced by the newer breweries. My advice to new breweries looking to open….don’t serve your beer until it’s ready.

Quality should always come first. And if you need help, reach out to the professionals.


Oktoberfest at Tycoons in Duluth

tycoonslogoDave Hoops from Fitger’s Brewhouse has put together a huge beer list for Oktoberfest at Tycoons (September 20-21). He’s got 11 beers in classic Oktoberfest styles Wiesn and Märzen, and five are from Minnesota microbreweries (two of course are from Germany, and three are from the greater Midwest). It’s the largest collection of Oktoberfest microbrews in Duluth. Check it out!

Fitger’s Brewhouse Oktoberfest Wiesn 6.1%
Duluth, Minnesota

Brewed strictly according to the Bavarian beer purity law of 1516, it has the character of a typical light bottom-fermented festival beer with a balanced harmonious taste and the pleasant fragrance of hops.

Paulaner Oktoberfest Wiesn 5.8%
Munich, Germany

This bier with a clean, malty nose has fruitiness and nutty notes too, along with a hint of baking spices. The mouth features a precise, clean palate with light body. The balance of nutty flavors and fruity Munich malt is more careful here than the other Oktoberfests we tasted, but the intensity is less, as well. The finish has a touch of crisp bitterness and nice malt.

Bell’s Octoberfest 5.5%
Galesburg, Michigan

Octoberfest trades in the assertive hop presence of some lagers for a focus on a light caramel malt note, lending body without too much sweetness.

Surlyfest 6.0%
Brooklyn Center, Minnesota

A traditional Oktoberfest bier from Surly? Nein! Malted Rye, Flaked Rye, and Crystal Rye impart a biscuit flavor to the lush Vienna Malt body, and dry-hopping with Sterling Hops adds bright, floral hop aromas.

Summit Oktoberfest 6.6%
St. Paul, Minnesota

Brewed in the classic Märzen style with Northern Brewer hops from Germany. Rich, toffee malt flavors up front with a clean hop finish as crisp as the autumn air.

Samuel Adams Oktoberfest 5.3%
Boston, Massachusetts

This brew masterfully blends together five roasts of malt to create a delicious harmony of sweet flavors including caramel and toffee. The malt is complemented by the elegant bitterness imparted by the Bavarian Noble hops.

Schell’s Oktoberfest 5.5%
New Ulm, Minnesota

Brewed with the perfect balance of Pale, Munich, and Cara Pils malt with Liberty and Perle hops to create a rich, smooth taste.

Goose Island Oktoberfest 6.4%
Chicago, Illinois

Notes of toffee and burnt sugar in the aroma and flavors of sweet dried apricots are delivered in a dry malty body with the mild earthy bitterness that is the hallmark of Hallertau hops.

Ayinger Oktoberfest 5.6%
Aying, Germany

Ample fruity Munich malt does most of the driving, giving a fresh, almost sweet character that one identified as “juicy.” There’s soft bitterness to balance here, and the overall impression is of a deeply drinkable, full and round beer with a clean character.

Great Lakes Oktoberfest 6.5%
Cleveland, Ohio

Like the crazy but lovable relative you only see once a year, our Oktoberfest is a heartwarming reunion in a glass — preferably of the heavy, handled German stein variety.

Lift Bridge Oktoberfest 5.5%
Stillwater, Minnesota

Brewed in the style of the modern day Oktoberfest, our beer is on the lighter side of a Märzen and is brewed with traditional European malts and hops, which combine to create a beer with a pleasant roasted malt flavor.

Six Pack: Dave Hoops from Fitger’s Brewhouse

Dave Hoops, BambergCould you share a little background on your history with Fitger’s Brewhouse, and for that matter, brewing beer in general (homebrew and/or professional)?

In the mid eighties I got a job at a high-end liquor store that stocked about every microbrewery available at that time in the U.S. So at a young age micros and imports were the only beers to pass my lips. This shaped my opinions and perceptions about beer early on. The next step was homebrewing which I started doing in 1990 in San Franciso. Craft brewing was exploding in the Bay Area at the time and I had dozens of fine examples to try to emulate as an all-grain homebrewer. I started hanging around breweries and doing free manual labor at a couple to try to learn more. One year I gave all my friends homebrew for Christmas and the response was so positive I started thinking about a career in brewing. I attended Seibel in Chicago then apprenticed at Goose Island brewery. I returned to San Francisco and made the rounds, applying at 40 breweries total. My main focus and goal was getting a job at Anchor. This did not happen and instead I was hired at the new Pyramid plant in Berkeley. I spent 5 years there as the lead brewer and then had the opportunity to take over for my brother at Fitger’s Brewhouse. My wife was born and raised in Duluth and our first child was about 1 and we decided the quality of life and proximity to family, as well as the creative aspect of running a small brewery made it a good fit.

I took over for Mike (my brother) January 2000 after a one-month pass down from Mike. I quickly began brewing what I had been trained to brew, hop-centric ales that had not gained a big following at the time. Years have passed and as my tastes have changed and matured I now brew about 120 different North Shore style ales and lagers per year. About 33% well hopped 33% lagers and wheat beers, and 33% strong, dark  and experimental beers.

What was the first Minnesota-made beer to pass your lips? How about the most recent (aside from one of your own, of course)?

On this question I’m not sure… I know the first Minnesota beer I fell in love with and sang from the highest hills about was Summit. Particularly EPA and Sparkling Ale. The most recently Minnesota made micro I tried was Alter Ego at Town Hall on my way out of Minnesota for the holidays.

Now we know that you’ve collaborated before (Cherry Grand Cru right?), but is there a competitive streak between you and your brother Mike? Do the two of you share recipes or swap ideas? Steal each others’ ideas? Anything in the works?

Yes, Cherry Grand Cru (1/2 Brewhouse Cherry Batch, ½ Town Hall Grand Cru, wine barrel aged for 1.5 years then oak aged with cherries added for another 6 months… fun beer.) I would not say a competitive streak because Mike brews a bit different then me and he also has the mantle of the most decorated pub brewer in Minnesota which he richly deserves. We do have an odd habit of brewing similar seasonals at the same times without ever speaking to each other about the beers. We do almost no recipe swapping we do share ideas over pints when we see each other. I would say I have a bit more over the top style sometimes, were as Mike makes very structurally sound beers.

Dave Hoops, St. Paul Summer Beer Fest... I think....

Brian Schanzenbach (left) & Dave Hoops (right) at St. Paul Summer Beer Fest.

What’s your favorite beer from the massive Brewhouse library?

I get this question very often; my canned response is the one in my hand. Truly my all time favorite is Starfire Pale Ale, my take on what a pale should taste like. Number two is Timmy’s Edelstoff a Munich style Export Helles and number 3 is French River Hefeweizen an amber hefe.

Any required brewhouse music? Anything banned from the brewery?

Now this sounds a bit like a loaded question… [It wasn’t, but what the hell… -ed.] I will say about 8 years back a certain hop and malt supplier (that is tall) and a fine young brewer (now at New Belgium) forced me to pull the plug on the Dead.. they know why. That being said we would have to put Cash, Marley, Neil Young  and Zeppelin on the required list.

Dave Hoops at Fitger's Brewhouse

If you could change one thing about the beer scene in Minnesota, what would it be and why?

That is a tough one. The nature of business, changing times and self-interest have made it almost impossible to work as a united team in the craft industry. I would say I Iook forward to working to change the restrictive and unfair laws that constrict the largest to the smallest craft brewers in this state.

One other comment, the beer scene in Minnesota has grown 50 fold in the last ten years with more and more folks in and out of the state recognizing the well-made unique offerings we put out. I think sooner rather then later we will all have more opportunities in the free market to bring us an even greater market share in the next 10 years.