This edition of “Have a beer with” features Bob and Ellie Tupper. Bob and Ellie have been intimately involved in the DC beer scene for many years and offered us great details about their award-winning Hop Pocket Ale. This is one of our longest interviews, as Bob was completely forthcoming and offers up unprecedented insight.
When the Hop Pocket Ale was first released, what was the initial reaction? Are people now more accepting of higher IBU beer?
The initial reaction was vastly greater and more enthusiastic than Jerry Bailey expected—I often wonder if he would have done it if he knew what he was getting into. It was more than Ellie and I had any real right to expect as well. And it was all word of mouth and Internet. I think people are not only accepting of higher IBUs, but a good many people are more actively seeking them. While the Hop Pocket isn’t shabby about IBU content, we always tried to emphasize hop flavor rather than hop bitterness. There just weren’t any beers like Hop Slam easily available in 1994. Most people we know who have tried this version of Hop Pocket are pleased with it, but some of those who aren’t have said they tried it next to a Hop Slam. That’s kind of like comparing an afternoon bike ride along the C&O towpath with Apollo’s Chariot at Busch Gardens. We’ve always tried to be a great experience, but one the whole family (well, those that are over 21) can enjoy—and enjoy for a full afternoon without risking injury.
What was the hardest part about getting Tuppers’ back into production?
Getting someone to do all those expensive things that I just mentioned. And ironically, the strength of craft brewing made it much harder this time than when we started. In 1994 we had several options—breweries that had more capacity than they could sell. Since we were a marginal product, they could make an expensive beer and sell it for a reasonable price since the equipment and facilities were essentially idle without us. As it turned out, we never did find a brewery that we were sure could brew it, that had the extra space—St. George had to buy tanks to make it.