The Best Place on Earth: The Hop Freezer at Victory

Of the many places Don and I saw while at Victory, the hop freezer made quite an impression.  Victory uses whole flower hops in just about every beer they brew, and they keep a bunch of them in a walk in freezer by the brew kettle so they have hops on hand when it comes time to add them to a brew.

If you’re not a hop head, you will be after 5 seconds in this place.  The smell is simply amazing.  There were both European and domestic varieties in there, and the air was thick with a citrusy, floral fragrance that made me wonder why hops aren’t used as perfume (after all, what guy wouldn’t be wildly attracted to a lady who smells like heaven?). The smell is so relaxing and pleasurable, I’m considering making hop potpourri, and I hate potpourri.

We were in there with Bill Covaleski, one of the founders of Victory, and he encouraged us to pick up the hops, roll them in our hands and take a deep smell.  They bushel we grabbed from were Cascade hops and they were simply wonderful.  Bill explained that whole flower hops give Victory beers a richer, sweeter hop taste, and Don and I couldn’t have agreed more.  It was hop heaven.

Being idiots and totally caught up in the moment, Don and I both neglected to take any photos – this was a recurring theme while we were there.  But I did find this video where Bill is in the very same hop freezer with my favorite flowers on earth.  He’s going on about some local competition or something, but just look at the hops!:

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Categories: Beer, Brotherhood, Lifestyle


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11 Comments on “The Best Place on Earth: The Hop Freezer at Victory”

  1. Don
    April 20, 2010 at 11:03 am #

    This place was amazing. I have heard that Hops are used in lotions and lip balms. I’m looking for some for Kathy for Mother’s Day!

    • April 20, 2010 at 11:09 am #

      She’s gonna wonder why you keep licking her arms and going “mmmm…victory!”

      • April 20, 2010 at 12:05 pm #

        Awesome! I can only imagine the fragrant aroma. I’m putting ‘walk-in hop freezer’
        on my ‘things to own someday’ list.

      • April 20, 2010 at 12:17 pm #

        If you have the means, I highly recommend picking one up.

        I walked in liking hops, and walked out a true hophead. As long as they’re fresh, that is.

  2. April 21, 2010 at 1:28 pm #

    Victory also just tweeted that “whole flower over pellets is the key.”

    As someone who brews exclusively with pellets these days (both due to availability and ease of use; I had an awful time with whole hops once), these kind of statements make me curious. How much is true, how much is marketing-speak? How much is subjective, and how much reliably identifiable difference actually exists?

    But especially, I’d like to know about breweries that use mostly or exclusively pellet hops in their beers. If you tell me that some of my favorite, explosively hoppy beers use nothing but pellets, then my mind will be set at ease.

    • Don
      April 21, 2010 at 1:40 pm #

      You know Brad that is a very good and fair question. My answer is I don’t know. It is worth looking into, but I can tell you having tasted most of Victory’s 20 beer lineup last week, every one is special. You know how a lot of breweries have 3 or 4 big flavorful brews and the rest are kind of Meh. Well there is no Meh at Victory. From their sessionable brews to their very big ABV beers they all have a very unique character and big flavor. Now is that all because of the hops? I don’t know the answer to that, could be their use of 40 yeast strains that help that out too, but I would say that the whole flower hops don’t hurt.

    • April 21, 2010 at 1:45 pm #

      It’s really expensive and difficult to brew with whole flower hops, so I don’t think it’s a marketing ploy, Brad. Talk to the folks at Victory and you’ll find that they are obsessed with the best ingredients and doing thing right, which is usually the hard way.

      I brew with pellets, too for the same reasons you listed, and my beers turn out okay. And it’s absolutely possible to brew an amazing beer with them on an industrial scale.

      But after smelling that room, eating some hop leaves and then tasting their beers, it’s clear to me that whole hops are an important component in the character of Victory’s beers. There’s a floral quality and a richness that’s undeniable. You can taste ’em in there and it’s wonderful.

    • April 21, 2010 at 1:46 pm #

      As you can see, we came away impressed 🙂

  3. April 21, 2010 at 2:05 pm #

    I’m certainly a big fan of Victory’s beers myself, and I don’t mean to cynically suggest that Bill and Ron don’t believe they are absolutely doing the right thing by using only whole hops. Mostly this piques my curiosity about what breweries may be using only pellet hops and how their brewmasters regard such decisions.

    Also, you’d never see this happen but wouldn’t it be cool if a brewery like Victory made two batches of the same beer but just switched from whole to pellet hops. I’d love to try a side-by-side or triangle test and see if I could identify which was which. On a homebrew scale I think there are too many other variables and factors that would get in the way.

    • April 21, 2010 at 3:47 pm #

      I’d love to taste a side by side comparison of pellets vs. whole flower hops. That’s a great idea.

      I know Bill from Victory told us they will use pellets from time to time if they are short on hops or if it’s a special brew that’ll benefit from using pellets, so they aren’t anti-pellet for sure. But they are definitely pro-whole flower hops, which they use something like 98% of the time. That tells me that the brewers at Victory can taste a difference, but I’d really enjoy a pellet vs. hop side-by-side tasting.

      And I totally agree about homebrewing not being the right forum for side by side test. I doubt I could get the exact same beer to taste the same way if I brewed it twice, so a comparison wouldn’t make sense, at least not if I’m the brewer!


  1. The Best Place on Earth: The Hop Freezer at Victory | Commercial Freezer - May 2, 2010

    […] Of the many places Don and I saw while at Victory, the hop freezer made quite an impression. Victory uses whole flower hops in just about every beer they brew, and they keep a bunch of them in a walk in freezer by the brew kettle so … View full post on industrial freezer – Google Blog Search […]

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