Mission Creek Brewing Co. opened in December 2014 as the second brewery inside a Whole Foods Market in the U.S., with brewmaster Guy Cameron at the helm.
After serving as assistant brewer at Campbell’s Rock Bottom Restaurant & Brewery, followed by several years at Russian River Brewing Co., Cameron has appreciated the new experience as brewmaster.
“I enjoyed being able to formulate all the recipes and to control the entire process from start to finish,” he said. “It’s great to see people getting excited to try the beers and having the beers so well received.”
Cameron said one of his biggest challenges was, and still is, trying to get hops.
“With the rapid growth in the craft brewing industry, the demand for hops is exceeding supply,” he said. “It was difficult meeting demand brewing relatively small batch sizes.”
Cameron has a penchant for seriously hoppy beers – most of his pale ales have more hop character than other breweries’ IPAs. He sees the difference primarily in terms of alcohol by volume, with IPAs approximately 7-8 percent ABV, anything lower a pale ale and anything higher a double IPA. I asked him how he crafts his hoppy brews.
“They should all have a high level of hop aroma and flavor,” he noted. “I think a great hoppy beer should be clean, crisp and dry, with bold hop flavor and aroma, but not necessarily a huge amount of bitterness. The hops need to be as fresh as possible, and I also feel it’s important to recognize that the same hop variety grown in different soil and often processed somewhat differently can impart quite different flavors and aromas. Hops are an agricultural product that are never going to be 100 percent consistent in terms of flavor and aroma from year to year.”
Cameron has brewed several single-hopped pale ales in his Solely series, and his latest offering is Solely Equinox. At 6.9 percent ABV, it’s a potent pale ale even by Cameron’s standards, and very complex for a single-hop brew. The aroma had a soft, lemon-lime fragrance, almost more like citrus-tree blossoms than the fruits themselves. Given the gentle aroma, the hops were surprisingly bright and sharp, with strong pine and citrus notes.
For the brewery’s first anniversary, Mission Creek brewed its first double IPA, Bine Life, with a whopping 7 pounds of hops per barrel, including Nelson, Mosaic, Citra, Cascade and Equinox. The beer tasted very fresh, with a persistent piney bitterness that hid the 8.7 percent ABV well. With the interplay between intense dank pine and tropical fruit aromas and flavors, imagine a Christmas tree decorated with freshly cut passion fruit.
Also on tap during a recent visit to Mission Creek was Plant 51 Porter, smooth and full-bodied with hop bitterness underlying a pleasant balance of dark chocolate and some roast, with a touch of smoke that became more pronounced as it warmed. I also enjoyed the Amcoe, a two-hop pale ale combining the grapefruit flavor and aroma of Amarillo hops with the pine and tropical fruit notes of Simcoe.
“I believe selecting certain hop varieties and then heavily dry-hopping is the key to getting that big, citrusy, floral, danky, tropical, fruit-juicy goodness,” said Cameron in reference to all of his hoppy beers.
Derek Wolfgram is chief operating officer for the Silicon Valley Sudzers Homebrew Club. For more information, visit sudzers.org.