July 23, 2019

Mighty Axe Hops Q&A with founder, Eric Sannerud

Mighty Axe Hops is a hop farming establishment springing from the heartland of Minnesota. Their team is committed to the mission of defining the science behind terroir and they’re using hops to do it. Here at Northern Brewer we’re beyond excited to collaborate and support this team of innovators. We’d like to introduce Mighty Axe Hops and their CEO Eric Sannerud who was kind enough to hop into the spotlight and answer some questions.

[NB] Why’d you decide to ‘hop into’ hop farming?

[Eric] It started with a passion for Hops and IPAs, which then combined with my love for farming!

[NB] What is the motto/catchphrase of Mighty Axe Hops?

[Eric] I'd say "Passionate Beer Farmers" sums us up pretty well.

[NB] What's the inspiration behind your brand name: Mighty Axe Hops?

[Eric] It's Minnesotan without being too in your face, like Minnesotans.

  • Mighty = Mighty Mississippi
  • Axe = Paul Bunyan
  • Hops = You get it

[NB] All-time favorite hop variety and why?

[Eric] Julius, aka MN Cascade. She was my first flame. We've been together for 6 years. I have Cascade hops tattooed on my body. 

Cascade is the essence of terroir, of flavor, and character. Where Cascade is grown, how it's grown, how it's harvested makes such a remarkable difference. Other hops will come and go, but Julius is forever.

[NB] What’s your go-to hop combo and name drop a beer you think perfectly expresses that blend?

[Eric] Tropica and Zenia are super delicious and they have shared many a beer together.

Fair State Brewing Cooperative’s Red Can IPA was the first to try it out.

[NB] Give a shout out to a local brewery who has used your hops in an inventive or surprising way?

OMNI Brewing! What's up Maple Grove!?!?!? Their Birdie Putt Hazy Pale Ale and soon to come out milkshake IPA have led the way by showcasing what Julius and especially Zenia hops can achieve when added to a contemporary hazy beer recipe.

Honorable mentions: Unmapped Brewing's ground-breaking terroir series, Dangerous Man's embrace of local terroir, and Summit diving in head first to support local hops.

Want to know if your brewery uses Mighty Axe Hops? Check out this list.

[NB] Define terroir in your own words?

[Eric] Terroir is the name for the idea that where something is grown affects how it tastes.

[NB] Call out some terroir qualities that you know produce a premium hop specimen?

[Eric] Terroir qualities are unique to each and every plot. It's well known in the beer industry that 2 hops from the same variety from the same farm in the same state harvested at the same time and dried in the same way can be wildly different, simply because they were grown 2 miles from each other. That's the absolute dumbfounding amazing magic of terroir. It's as vast as the universe.

[NB] Peek into the future and tell us what hop growing will look like in 25 or 50 years? 

[Eric] I hope to see much more distributed hop farming. Farms growing across the entire country, with appellations that protect and uplift the terroir of certain regions, brewers, homebrewers, and beer drinkers. Hopefully, everyone begins to embrace and understand the role of terroir in their beer's flavor.

[NB] Why should people buy Mighty Axe Hops? 

[Eric] Farmer owned and operated with a brand spanking new hop picking, drying, and pelleting facility. We combine Minnesotan terroir with innovative processing techniques(dried under 120ºF, picked outside of traditional ripe time) to produce hops that are optimized for peak aroma and brewing efficiency instead of bitterness. Harvested with environmentally sustainable practices our methods are continuously being perfected by the support and feedback from local breweries.

[NB] Dish out some hop rhizome tips/hacks for our homebrewers?

[Eric] If you plant rhizomes, double plant them (plant two for every one plant you hope to grow), plant them first thing in the spring (mother's day roughly), and they will spread! Plant your hops surrounded by landscaping, edging, or some other physical barrier to circumvent their underground growing habit or in a few quick years your garden will be overwhelmed.

[NB] Name key elements/features our homebrewers should search for when purchasing hops?

[Eric] There are three big things every brewer needs to know about their hops. Where was it grown? When was it harvested? How was it dried?
These three questions are almost more important than the usual information you get like variety name, alphas/betas/oils because these three questions can change a hop entirely. A Washington grown, 22% dry matter, 160ºF dried Cascade compared to a Minnesotan grown 26% dry matter, 110ºF dried Cascade is apples to oranges.

[NB] Give us the sun up to sun down schedule of a hop farmer?

[Eric] No two days are the same! It's a juggling of farm work, office work, customer meetings, team meetings, crew meetings... But, most days end with a beer :)

[NB] A lot of our homebrewers are hopheads. If they brewed something with Mighty Axe Hops or wanted to tour your facility - how should they contact you?

[Eric] TELL ME ABOUT ALL THE BEERS. My direct email is I wanna talk shop: recipes, hop utilization, aroma, flavor, bitterness. . . let's dig in. Tours are scheduled out every year and can be found on our social media and website ( Homebrew groups are welcome to coordinate with me for a private tour!


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