I am sitting in the brewery when R2Hop2 arrives for the day. As usual, he looks a little hungover; they say that this is common in the life of a dry hopping machine. After all, he does spend all day consuming beer. He rolls up to the desk where I am sitting and I have a cup of coffee waiting for him. He takes one look at the cup of coffee, and instead opts for a cigarette. I can already tell that this interview will be like getting blood from a stone.
|R2Hop2 mugging for the camera|
We begin with a little small talk. R2Hop2 spent the evening at the casino. Apparently, he was on a roll playing craps for a while. But then his luck took a turn for the worse. That explained why he had shown up for the interview without his shirt. He literally gambled it away. His bloodshot eye shifts down, a little defiant as he tells the story, and there is hop residue all over his face. This machine is a hot mess.
Life was not always like this, he tells me. He spent the majority of his youth as a keg, just traveling from bar to bar, restlessly. He has seen a lot of the world and spent quite a bit of time in Virginia. Then one day, he was plucked from obscurity by the Head Brewer at Fordham and Dominion. The Head Brewer will claim that he immediately saw the potential in R2, however, there was nothing that separated him from any of the other kegs at this point in his life.
The Head Brewer immediately made R2Hop2 his pet project, beginning with total cosmetic alterations. He attached legs on wheels, a new head, and even an arm. At this point, he commenced his dry hopping training. This training takes DAYS even HOURS to complete.
R2 begins to tell me about a normal day at work. He arrives there, usually around 8 in the morning, sometimes later if he was out making paid appearances the night before. Before any of the beers can be hopped, he has to make sure that all of his internal compartments are completely sanitized, so he spends the first hour essentially at the spa. Next, one of the technicians mixes up a slurry of hot hop water. R2Hop2 then spends the next couple of hours hooked up to one of the fermentation tanks, circulating the beer through the hops.
He tells me that this process of dry hopping during secondary fermentation is common to craft brewing. The reason for this being that dry hopping gives many beers their pleasant and inviting aromas. If you smell a beer and detect notes of citrus, pine, or even a little spiciness, that is due to dry hopping. In fact, outside of adding hops for bitterness and flavor during the boiling process, the ONLY thing that dry hopping can do is provide aroma.
|Not going to lie, I have always wanted to be an illustrated character too....|
R2 does not know that I researched this prior to the interview, but as it turns out, he is the only keg-based dry hopper in existence. That might explain his aloof attitude and overall sense of entitlement. It does not help his ego that the brewery chose to honor his work this year by naming their beer and music festival after him.
The interview concludes abruptly when one of the dry hopping technicians showed up. Apparently, R2Hop2 is going to be dry hopping a double IPA today. On his way out, he tells me that he will be making a special appearance at the May 19th beer and music festival, if I want to see him again and all of this beer does not kill him first. I sense foreboding as I watch him go; he is exactly the type of machine who would get involved with nitrogen doping.