Carolina Cones

- by Bill Craver

As a promise to our customers, one of Legion Brewing’s highest priorities is to utilize nearby ingredients whenever possible. Sourcing local is a primary component of our commitment to quality. Generally speaking, this practice serves to differentiate beers from local brewers, such as Legion, from the products of super-regional and/or national breweries.

While our brewers are able to consistently gather a large component of our malt bill from North Carolina suppliers, sourcing local hops hasn’t been easy. Why not? For the most part, geography, climate, history and infrastructure essentially dictate where hops are grown in North America. Multi-generational family farms located in the Northwestern part of the county have long been the dominant source of American hops. In fact, Washington and Oregon are responsible for 85% of U.S. production. Adding production from Idaho brings this figure to a whopping 96%!

With that as background, you can imagine how excited our brewers were to meet Laura and Patrick Hollowell, hop growers and owners of Fools Errand Farm in Laurel Springs, NC. We utilized Fools Errand hops last year in our first-ever Barleywine, which we lovingly referred to as ‘Chris Barley.’ This year, Laura and Patrick once again supplied Legion Brewing with whole-cone Cascade, Chinook and Nugget hops for another special brew.

Laura and I have had a lot of fun tending to our modest hop operation over the past several years,” exclaimed gentleman farmer, Patrick Hollowell. “Our farm rests in the North Carolina mountains, not far from the Blue Ridge Parkway. We think it’s a really happy spot for things to grow, and we know those good mountain vibes resonate through each and every hop cone. And what could be better than having our favorite local Charlotte brewer using Fools Errand hops!”

For this special brew, Legion’s Brewers decided to source even more local hops in order to make this beer a 100% North Carolina hop party! To do this, they located Cascade and Chinook hops from Sticky Indian Farm in Asheville, NC. These hops fit right in with the others, resulting in a hop blend that lends delicate notes of honey, green tea and flowers.

So, what came of all this hop goodness? Carolina Cones (NC fresh hop Double IPA; 8.2% ABV; 71 IBUs) – an intensely hoppy, very strong pale ale without the overwhelming maltiness of an American Barleywine. While strongly-hopped, Carolina Cones is an approachable, drinkable beer with a clean finish.

“Legion’s Brew Staff recently had a chance to visit the land of hops in Yakima, Washington. We learned firsthand the amount of intense physical labor that goes into the harvesting process,” Head Brewer, Alexa Long noted. “While the scale and the process are a bit different here in NC, we greatly appreciate the labor of love that both of our local farmers put into their harvest.  The whole cone, NC hops have a fresh, unique, and delicate flavor that is very different from anything we’re getting from the Yakima Valley.”

At Legion Brewing, we hope that beers like Carolina Cones, as well as farms like Fools Errand and Sticky Indian, will inspire other farmers to add hops to the list of crops grown here in the Carolinas. We invite everyone to come by for a pint of Carolina Cones to experience the fruits of local, North Carolina hops. If it inspires any of our customers to run out and plant hop vines in their backyards, call us when harvest time comes around…