Hops, the flowers of beautiful vines that grow like beanstalks, are used to flavor and aromatize beer. However, whiskey — which is more or less distilled beer — is traditionally made with an unhopped brew. Leave it to the restless minds at Wigle Whiskey to wonder, "What if we added the hops back?"
They added the hops back and are set to release Hopped, the distillery's third installment of its Wigle Whims series. It's a wheat whiskey vapor-infused with Centennial, Cascade and Newport hops from Soergel Orchards, in Wexford.
"We make spirits that are regionally specific. Since hops grow in this area, and it's a seasonal product, it fit really well into our portfolio," says Wigle events coordinator Jill Steiner.
Meanwhile, in an unrelated project, social-enterprise organization GTECH is preparing to celebrate a successful second year of its Hops on Lots program. "We wanted to find a creative way to reuse vacant land," says GTECH's Sara Innamorato. "This region historically has grown hops. We thought, ‘Wouldn't it be cool to try to grow them again here, not just to reclaim a vacant lot but also to add some economic value to a vacant space?'"
This year, GTECH harvested 40 pounds of hops, mostly Centennial and Cascade varieties. They donated 10 pounds to homebrewer John Creasey, of Garfield Community Farm (where the hops are grown), and the rest to East End Brewing.
With all the hops happening, it's time for a hoppening party. So GTECH and Wigle are teaming up for Wet Hoptoberfest, on Oct. 3 at Wigle's North Side Whiskey Garden (www.wiglewhiskey.com). It costs $35, which will get you: three 8-ounce pours of East End beer wet-hopped with GTECH's hops; an early crack at sampling Wigle's hopped whiskey; and some food from Marty's Market. Noah Petronic, who grows hops at Soergel and advised GTECH for its hop lot, will be on hand to talk about growing hops.
"It's going to be a big celebration of all things hops-related," says Wigle's Steiner.