Episode 188: Steve Luke of Cloudburst Brews with a Methodical Approach to Hops

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Steve Luke loves hops, and over a decade and a half working in the industry he’s learned quite a bit about brewing with them. Cloudburst is, effectively, his second act—a brewery built for the love of brewing after a career spent at larger breweries like Allagash, Captain Lawrence, and Elysian. Today, Luke blends the discipline and production precision he learned from larger-scale production with his passion for creating new hop-driven beers.

In this episode of the podcast, Luke dives into his technical and creative approaches to designing hoppy beers. Along the way he discusses:

  • The four components that define balance
  • Creating dryness and drinkability without sacrificing hops punch
  • Brewing different IPA expressions (hazy or West Coast) with a single yeast strain
  • Approaching IPA design from both directions, backwards from a visualized flavor or forwards from an ingredient inspiration
  • Minimizing flaked ingredients for longer stability
  • Chasing lower dissolved oxygen levels in packaged beer
  • Categorizing hops by flavor components and creating blends using his own visualization tools
  • The five or six hops that can make or break an IPA
  • The importance of contracting, and the imperfect science of selection
  • Building layered hop character with more hot-side additions
  • Water impact on hop expression
  • Dry-hopping strategy to speed up reduction of diacetyl precursors

And more.

This second act is a labor of love for Luke. Cloudburst isn’t just a business, it’s a way to insure he has control over the creative process in what he brews, and that he can stay involved in doing what he loves—actually making the beer. The brewhouse team is two people, Zach Kornfeld and Luke, and they’re focused on remaining small and hands-on.

“Why I started a brewery was because my passion is brewing,” Luke says. “Creating beers, making the beers. That’s something I don’t ever want to push myself out of. As far as growth goes, there’s only so big we can be. We’re in this happy spot of about 2,000 barrels per year, and we don’t see much more volume growth than that.”

*This episode is brought to you by: *

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