42 lbs of Hops, a 30th Birthday, and a Sneaky Brew – the Story of The Liberator

Today we’re telling a tale of friendship, a 30th birthday, 42 lbs of hops, and some sneaky sneaky Short’s employees. We give you the story of The Liberator!

It was the winter of 2008 and Joe Short was working day and night to open our Elk Rapids Production Facility and subsequently, spending less and less time at the brewhouse in Bellaire. Knowing Joe’s 30th birthday was just around the corner, Tony Hansen (now Short’s Head Brewer) and Steve “The Wizard” Ison, our Packaging and Warehouse Supervisor, saw this as an opportunity to celebrate Joe by brewing a super secret beer in his honor. Disguised as a batch of Stellar Ale, The Liberator was born!

First brewed 7 years ago this month, The Liberator (8.2 % ABV – 114 IBU) is a double IPA that employs a sizable malt bill and a crazy amount of hops added to the boil every 4 minutes, for 120 minutes (30 hop additions for Joe’s 30 years on planet earth). Fruity, floral, and piney hop flavors penetrate throughout the caramelized malt profile. The Liberator is a well-balanced, full bodied brew that has a bitter finish due to the post fermentation addition of lemon and orange zest.

Now, if you’ve ever met Joe, you know that keeping a secret from Short’s fearless CEO is no easy task. Especially when you take into consideration that due to the massive amount of hops added to this brew (over twice as many as are found in a batch of Huma Lupa Licious), The Liberator had to be transferred several times for conditioning. At one point, Steve recalls Joe standing right on top of a hose flowing with the hoppy beverage, The Liberator was literally right under Joe’s feet, yet Tony and Steve still managed to save the surprise.

The name, “The Liberator,” was proposed by Leah Short as a nod to Joe and Jon “Woj” Wojtowicz who worked to educate the masses about craft beer prior to the introduction of Short’s Liberation team. The inspiration for the beer? A meshing of two of Joe’s favorite brews – Huma Lupa Licious and Nicie Spicie, to make the “ultimate Joe beer.” Apparently, at one point Tony even considered adding peppercorns!

While the recipe for The Liberator has not changed despite brewing on a larger scale in Elk Rapids (yep, our brewers still walk up and down eight steps 30 times for each and every batch of this copper-colored elixir), we’re happy to share this beer in bottles with the great state of Michigan each December. With wide grins and a twinkle in our eyes we waived goodbye to trucks filled with six-packs of  The Liberator just last week as they began to make their way to a store near you! Pick up a six pack (or a few – it’s the holiday season and you know you’ll want to share), and enjoy a little piece of Short’s history today.

Want to learn more about The Liberator, check out this episode of Short’s Cast.


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