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Cocktail Hour: Hopheads Celebrate Hop Vodka

San Fran Shandy. Credit: Courtesy of Anchor Distilling Company

San Fran Shandy. Credit: Courtesy of Anchor Distilling Company

Does the arrival of hop vodka mean we are becoming obsessed with hops?

First there was Charbay Hop Flavored Whiskey, a whiskey maker’s infusion of Racer 5 IPA beer into an alambic-pot-distilled whiskey aged in French oak barrels. It was the partnership between two Northern California craft artisans, the distiller Charbay and the brewery Bear Republic.

Continuing the trend is San Francisco-based Anchor Distilling, the spirits extension of world-famous Anchor Brewing, whose staffs have quite naturally figured out a way to use the goodness of the hops they could smell wafting around their shared building space to make the world’s first hop vodka, Hophead.

These fun new drinks capture our increasingly fervid love affair with hops, exemplified best by the six- to  eight-hour waiting times endured the first Friday of February along the sidewalks circling Russian River Brewing Company in Santa Rosa, Calif.. This is when and where brewer Vinnie Cilurzo releases his once-yearly Pliny the Younger, a triple-hopped version of his already maniacally sought after double IPA Pliny the Elder.

This year the lines grew longer than ever before, signaling a seriously intense devotion to the pursuit of good hops by hops lovers the world over. Many are hoping this will bode well for the burgeoning return of hops to Hopland, a small town in Mendocino about a half-hour north of Healdsburg along Highway 101.

Hop vodka revitalizes Hopland

The Hopland Brewery is thought to have been the first post-Prohibition brewpub in California. Opened in 1933, its operation created a renewed chance to use all the hops that were being grown about the place around then. But over time fruit orchards and wine grapes took over and the demand for hops went into decline.

Locals are trying to reignite the currency for hops, at least on a small scale, with Oakland-based brewer Adam Lamoreaux of Linden Street Brewery leading the way. Lamoreaux has partnered with Gary Breen, who bought the old Haas Hops Ranch, (also the former site of the Fetzer Valley Oaks Ranch), outside of Hopland a few years ago and has recently opened Piazza de Campovida in town, a place to find a fair few small-batch Linden Brewery brews.

Adding to that town’s momentum is the new Hopland Ale House a few doors down, where the Mendocino Brewing Company once stood, with 8 beers on tap and the hope to further interest in locally grown hops.

Until that day, this spring enjoy a double helping of hop flavor with this blend of hop vodka and single-hopped beer into one hyper-hopped Shandy and contemplate the possibilities.

San Fran Shandy

Serves 1

Created by Russell Davis, 2012 National Bartender of the Year, for the launch of Hophead.


2 ounces Hophead vodka

1 ounce fresh lemon juice

½ ounce ginger liqueur

½ ounce honey syrup

½ ounce egg white

2 dashes Angostura bitters

3 ounces Anchor Brewing Brekle’s Brown Ale

Half on orange wheel


1. Combine Hophead, lemon juice, ginger liqueur, honey syrup, egg whites and bitters in a shaker and dry shake to emulsify egg whites.

2. Add ice and shake vigorously until proper dilution.

3. Strain into a chilled fizz glass.

4. Empty ice out from the shaker and fill it with ale to create a froth

5. Pour this froth over the drink in the chilled fizz glass and garnish with half an orange wheel.

San Fran Shandy. Credit: Courtesy of Anchor Distilling Company

Zester Daily contributor Virginie Boone is a Sonoma Valley-based wine writer. She has reported on the Northern California wine scene for the Santa Rosa Press Democrat and its affiliate food and wine magazine, Savor, and is a contributing reviewer of California wines for Wine Enthusiast.