For over thirty years, Bob and Ellie Tupper have observed, hosted, interviewed, and introduced the Washington, D.C.-area beer scene. During that time, the husband-and-wife duo has tasted over 24,000 beers from there —and nearly everywhere else— and recorded their observations in handwritten notebooks.
On Wednesday, 2 July, they will taste, and document, in public, their 25,000th beer.
With Lost Rhino Brewing, of Ashburn, Virginia, the Tuppers have collaborated in brewing a "big-hopped" Rye Pale Ale of 7.9% alcohol-by-volume (abv). Called, appropriately, Tuppers' 25K, the beer will be released that evening at the brewery's tap room, draught-only. The Tuppers will meet and greet at 6pm; they'll 'formally' taste the beer, their 25,000th brew, at 7:30. There's no admission charge; one pays as one drinks. But ... sales of souvenir glasses and a percentage of the beer sales will benefit The Reading Connection, an organization that provides books and tutoring for kids in shelters.
In today's parlance, Bob and Ellie —a schoolteacher and scientific editor, by trades, respectively— are 'gypsy' brewers.
In 1994, after already having tasted thousands of beers, they collaborated with Dominion Brewing —then in Ashburn, close to where Lost Rhino is today— to brew a beer as they wanted a beer to taste. The result, Tuppers' Hop Pocket Ale (and, later, joined by Tuppers' Hop Pocket Pils), was considered quite the hop 'bomb' of the day. Kenny Allen1, then Dominion's head-brewer, brewed Hop Pocket with "extravagant" quantities of whole leaf hops, Mt. Hood predominant. Hop Pocket would go on to become Dominion's top-selling beer, but in 2007, production was halted after Dominion was sold and moved soon thereafter to Delaware. Three years later, in 2010, the beer would be revived at St. George Brewing, in Hampton, Virginia.
Sadly, Tuppers Hop Pocket Ale is, again, no longer in production (never say never?). Bob and Ellie will be tapping the very last keg of it, this Tuesday evening, 24 June, at Mia's Pizzas, in Bethesda, Maryland.
Of course, the following week, the two, quite un-wistfully, will be tapping their newest beer, Tuppers' 25K, at Lost Rhino Brewing.
We haven't had a chance to play 'gypsy' for a while, so it was really fun being back in a brewhouse again. Favio Garcia [brewmaster and co-owner at Lost Rhino, who had also once worked at Dominion Brewing] is a blast to work with. We were standing in the hop room saying, "There're some xxx hops. Let's use some of those." So, Favio tossed Mount Hood, Amarillo, Cascade, and Azacca [a new variety] in the kettle, adding a good dose of Mount Hood and Amarillo at knockout, and then a bunch of Crystal and Mount Hood in the hop-back. The rye was coming through very nicely when we had some out of the fermenter last week. Rye can be husky and edgy, but it seemed to oddly temper the big hops. We'll see what happens when fermentation's done.
Bob reports that Tuppers' 25K is but the prototype for an even 'bigger' beer. Come this fall, he and Ellie will again be collaborating with the brewery, but on "Mother Tupper's Back of the Cupboard Imperial Rye PA" (say that 5 times quickly!), "a 9.4% abv, 94 IBUs liverbreaker," named and 'spec'd' for Bob's 94 year old mother. A 50-barrel batch, it will be packaged in draught and in 22-ounce bottles.
Some things come, and some things go. Farewell, Hop Pocket; greetings, Tuppers' 25K and Mother Tupper's. But a question remains: when will the Tuppers ever get around to publishing the tasting notes for those twenty-five thousand beers?
- 1 Kenny Allen is now the head brewer for Old Ox Brewing, a brewery soon to open in Ashburn, Virginia. It's interesting that Allen and Garcia —two of Old Dominion Brewing's final head brewers— both wound up as principals in breweries both so close to each other and to the former site of their erstwhile employer.
- Another Washington, D.C.-area resident has tasted quite a few beers, if not as many as the Tuppers. Gene Bonventre has noted his observations on 10,000 beers, not on paper, but, 21st century-wise, on the internet, at Ratebeer.com, a crowd-sourced beer review site. Read more, from beer writer, Tammy Tuck, at the Washington Post.