Hop Blast Wonder
May 2017. Nathan Batdorf is a computer programmer by trade, living in Sauk Rapids with his wife, Bethany, and two kids, Graham, 2, and Willa, 5 months. It’s the end of a long work week, and the typical distractions of life with a young family — balancing work, home life, and hobbies — have dissipated momentarily.
For Nathan, this means wheeling a metal cart secured in the corner of his garage to the end of his driveway. Designed by a helpful welder friend, the bespoke dolly features an affixed winch, post-fermentation pump, and kettle/burner built in. And it’s from this stage that Nathan will yield his harvest of hops.
It’s not a terribly new sensation for Nathan now. He’s been brewing beer at home since 2011 — and even his modest estimates put this latest brew somewhere around the 150 mark. While accurate accounting and beer consumption seldom work in concert, Nathan can usually be found enjoying a beer at home from one of his two basement bar taps. His brew choices are almost always influenced by what he wants to keep on hand.
As neighbors drag their lawnmowers out for a weekend trim or retrieve their garbage bins from the night before, Nathan commences with his “yard work,” a considerable luxury he knows — brewing his favorite beers and watching his kids play outside.
We chose Nathan's Hop Blast Wonder for our spring pro-am guest tap, and Nathan joined us in the brewhouse to help brew his recipe in time for a June release, to coincide with this year's Homebrew Con. And if that wasn’t work enough, he was nice enough to chat with us about his beer and his brewing history.
CW: How did you find out about our home brew tap?
NB: I had some friends that had gone to Clockwerks who noticed other homebrewers on tap, and a couple of weeks later my friend got word to me, saying “Hey, there’s a place down by Target Field that says to bring down your homebrew, and if they like it, they’ll brew it.” And I was like, “Sure!”
I was going to the Twins home opener, so I brought a few before the game. I just walked up with a few bottles and a week later they asked if I wanted to brew my beer! It was as easy as that.
CW: How does it feel to brew your beer for patrons of Clockwerks?
NB: Brewing beers is like an art form to me. I can’t sing or play any instruments, so brewing gives me the freedom to be an artist of some sort. When I found out, I was so excited to go to Minneapolis and brew my beer. I get access to brew in Clockwerks’ great facility — that’s like the dream. I would rather get to do this than win any kind of award. I get to brew my beer in an actual brewery, order my beer off the tap, and drink from the bar. It’s like a dream.
CW: How did you start home brewing?
NB: I visited friends out in Colorado, and visited breweries out there a few times that I really liked. Everyone just seemed so knowledgeable about beer and I didn’t really know a lot at the time, so I started researching and I became fascinated. I just started out small. I bought a little brewing kit, a Mr. Beer kit, for my first batch, and I was pretty much hooked. Over the last 5 years, the growth has been insane. And it’s been fun to be a part of that.
CW: Well, we love “Hop Blast Wonder” and are thrilled to soon have it on tap. Tell us more about “Hop Blast Wonder.”
NB: It’s been around for a while, and it’s one of the beers I brew that I’ve come back to again and again the last three years as I discovered which recipes I really liked, which ones I enjoy making, and which ones turn out well. It’s probably the single recipe I make that is “finished” as far as I’m concerned. Judging your own beer is probably going to be the hardest. For me, personally, I’m harder on it that any other beer. I’ve made some tweaks over the years but I’m loving how it turns out now, so I’m calling it good.
CW: Where did the recipe come from?
NB: The base recipe was a method called hop blasting, so you’re throwing in a bunch of hops at the end of a boil. Formerly the idea was brewers would throw hops at the beginning of a boil and add more along the way, as needed. Now it’s become a little more normal to load hops into the latter stages of a brew. It gives Hop Blast Wonder a lot more of a rounded bitterness, and you get a lot more flavor and hop aroma.
CW: How is the brew process?
NB: The way I brew is called “Brew in a Bag.” It’s a special process. It’s where you pretty much put all the grains in the bag and then you put the bag in the kettle, and you just let it be, mash it for an hour and then when you’re done you just lift it straight out and you can just start the boil. I watched a fellow brewer with 20 years of experience make a batch that way and I modeled my approach after him. I love it, it’s efficient, and it saves so much time.
CW: Any beer inspirations?
There’s not really a single person or brewery that I look up to. I just think breweries that display longevity and are able to brew quality beer without going over the top are worth admiration. The trend nowadays is to go big or more bitter or stronger; I think some restraint is welcome at times. You don’t have to go up to 11 every single day. And I think that’s kind of Clockwerks’ approach to beer: giving people varieties that they can enjoy one or two and still go about their day.
CW: What’s your favorite beer?
NB: My favorite beers are probably the sours. I’m a big fan of IPAs and even like the Imperial Stouts, too, buy my wife really likes sour beers. At the time, I wasn’t really into them but I made her a batch just to please her. So she loves sour beer and now I love sour beer.
CW: What do you think of home brewing as a hobby?
NB: First of all, it’s not overly complicated to make good beer. So don’t worry about it and just jump. The equipment doesn’t make great beer; home brewers can make great beer right from the start. When I started, I knew zero people who brewed. I learned all my technique online. I joined a brewing group probably two years ago, (Nathan is a member of Cloudy Town Brewers in St. Cloud) It’s a great place to work on recipes and get great feedback. It’s about asking questions, whether they’re a pro or amateur, this community is here to help you. I would say don’t be scared. Just jump!
Join us June 17 for the Hop Blast Wonder release party.