There’s a scene in Dances With Wolves where Kicking Bird says to Lt. John Dunbar, “We’ve come a long way, you and me.”
(only 90’s movie reference of the blog, I swear.)
That’s how we feel when we look at our new 6-packs of Jade IPA.
Yes, we are finally succumbing to the voluminous passionate tweets, posts, messages and general beseeching you’ve done, imploring us to package one of your (and our) favorite Foothills brands in 12-ounce bottles.
In what we feel is the formidable lineup of our brands, Jade has more than held its own over the course of its short lifetime. Since it introduction Super Bowl weekend 2011, it’s been one of our best-selling and most talked-about beers. It has indeed come a long way — from its humble and auspicious birth amongst the sights (and scents) of the 2007 Craft Brewer’s Conference in Austin, Texas.
It was there that Jamie Bartholomaus, brewmaster of then-barely-two-years-old Foothills Brewing, and T.L. Adkisson, head brewer for Ham’s in Greenville, NC, were wandering through the Conference Expo, looking at equipment and raw materials and dreaming of bigger and better days for their respective breweries. As is usually the case, the hops growers (Hop Union, in this case) had several bales of hops broken open, to allow brewers to taste and smell their wares. Jamie picked up a handful of a new varietal called New Zealand Pacific Jade and took a deep whiff.
Turning to T.L. he said “Man I could make a pillow out of this stuff.”
T.L. was equally enamored. As he remembers, “It was definitely unique. Instead of having the citrusy qualities of Pacific Northwest hops, I smelled mango, guava — Jade had all these tropical fruit notes going on.”
Back home, both Jamie and T.L. followed up with Hop Union, trying to get their hands on some Jade hops. Both were told the same thing . . . what they’d seen (smelled) in Austin was only samples — the initial big harvest wasn’t due for another few years.
Fast forward to 2010 . . . T.L. had been hired as head brewer at Foothills, and one day his brewmaster (Jamie) walked up to him and said, “Guess what? Remember those hops we fell in love with in Austin? I just bought 440 pounds of ’em.” Scratching his head, he added “I’m just not sure what we’re gonna do with ’em.”
T.L. smiled. “I know what we’re gonna do with ’em.”
Within an hour he had written out a recipe for Jade IPA — the same recipe that, with a few minor tweaks, we’re still using today.
More than a third of that first batch disappeared that Super Bowl weekend, and the love affair was kindled. North Carolina craft beer drinkers spent the next three years downing pint after pint, pining for the day they could take this magic elixir home with them.
So toward the end of December 2013, on a whim, our marketing department posted on Facebook that, if we could get to 15,000 likes by the end of January 2014, we’d bottle Jade.
It took less than a month.
So we got busy. Our artist Kyle Webster came up with the iconic brand logo; his vision was so spot-on that almost no changes were made to the original drawing (we did add the little logo hair lock). Instead of trumpeting the coming arrival of Jade bombers, we kept it a secret from everybody but employees and distributors, not releasing the info until the day bottles were actually on shelves.
The result? Demand for Jade skyrocketed, and we spent most of 2014 trying to keep up. In fact, after the initial two bottling runs, demand for draft remained so high we didn’t bottle it again for 10 months.
Since then we’ve installed four massive 300 BBL fermenters, so keeping up with your insatiable thirst for Jade has become a lot more manageable – to the point we’re ready to put 6-packs on the shelves. Not sure when they’ll be available, we’re aiming for early 2016, so stay tuned. Meantime, if you haven’t yet, get familiar with the Find Foothills Beer Finder on our website — it’ll help you find these when they come out.
And by all means — feel free to make a pillow out of them.