Merlin Makes His Mark

After a 30-year romance with hops, Brewmaster Matt Brynildson has achieved a distinction like no other – the Order Of The Hop, an international award reserved for the most accomplished leaders in the world of hops.

For those in the know, this is a huge honor attainable only through decades of hard work, passion, and dedication. Matt was at the International Hop Congress in Prague last week to accept the award.

“I’ve been fascinated with hops and hop growing since the very start of my career, first as a hop chemist and later a practicing brewer,” Matt said. “I never in my wildest dreams thought that I would be standing in front of a group of international hop growers and professionals in Prague–the motherland of pilsner beer and Saaz hops–receiving an award like this.”

Matt Brynildson and his family pose for a photo after he received the Order of the Hop

Hops have been grown and bred in the Czech lands for centuries. The Order Of The Hop is awarded by the Hop Growers Union of the Czech Republic “as a decoration for hop growers, merchants, breeders and other personalities who grow, breed, process or promote hops in the world, or have otherwise contributed to the reputation and growth of the quality of this cultural crop…The awarding of the Order is a symbolic prestigious expression of respect for high-quality, long-term work in favor of hops, for a significant discovery related to its cultivation, or for significant promotion and spreading of the good name of Czech hops.”

Matt sits at a table at a hop farm in the Yakima Valley

An Amazing Adventure

Matt’s hop journey began when he started making homebrews in college. He started working as a hop chemist after graduation, and later became a brewer at Goose Island in Chicago. He joined Firestone Walker in 2000, and the rest is history. Matt’s savvy and passion for hops have catapulted him to the ranks of the world’s top IPA brewers, and his deft touch with this noble ingredient is also deeply felt in more delicate styles such as pilsners.

Matt is also a founding member of the Hop Quality Group and a lecturer for the Hop Growers of America, teaching brewing students and professional brewers about hops and focusing on hops grown in the US.

Matt talks with Graham Gamache of Cornerstone Ranches

“This award is largely due to my many years of work for HGA,” Matt said. “I have traveled to South America, Russia, Australia, China, and across Central Europe, mainly focusing on brewing schools and universities but also brewing conferences and trade shows. I’ve met so many amazing people along the way whom I now consider to be good friends. I’ve always had a passion and a love for hops and better beermaking, so this has been an amazing adventure that never felt like work.”

For all that, Matt takes home some serious hardware – a pure silver medallion consisting of two parts. The dominant feature is a realistic hop leaf on which three hop cones are placed. The ribbon above the leaf bears the name of the decoration: Rad Svazu p├ęstitel├╝ chmele CR (Order of the Hop Growers Union of the Czech Republic).

We could not be more happy for Matt–a most fitting honor for a brewmaster who has not only given so much to us, but to the brewing and hop communities around the world.