SOUTH BRISTOL — Have you ever been drinking a Budweiser, Coors or Genesee, yet wishing you were sipping a pale ale, Irish porter or cherry wheat instead?
Guess what? It’s possible now. All it takes is a squirt of a new product in your budget-friendly beer.
Mad Hops flavored beer drops are the brainchild of South Bristol resident Peter Hanley. His prime distribution market for now is the Buffalo area, but they can be found locally at Lake Street Station Winery in Geneva and Mixers & More in Farmington; they also can be ordered online.
“It’s really surprising. I have watched people try Mad Hops at festivals and tastings around the country this year, and I’ve seen people move from puzzled to skeptical to delighted in the time it takes to pour and taste the product,” Hanley said. “Mad Hops is for people on a beer budget and for people who, frankly, don’t like the taste of beer.”
Hanley’s path to the present is a circuitous one. A 1976 Naples High graduate, he attended the Air Force Academy, where he played soccer, before finishing up his degree closer to home at St. John Fisher College. He later worked at Kodak for about 20 years, stationed in Central America and the Caribbean, until his division was purchased by another company.
“That is when the music stopped,” he said with a grin.
Hanley then worked for a number of small companies, taking him to locales such as Boston, Miami, Minnesota and New Jersey, until he decided to move back home several years ago. With an eye toward getting into the growing craft beer industry, he started growing hops on about two acres in South Bristol.
“I’m not a farmer, but I took classes and went to seminars,” he said. “I just wanted to dip my toe in the water of the craft beer industry.”
He soon realized, however, that the playing field was getting crowded so he took another route. The result was Mad Hops, which is made from genuine beer ingredients such as hop oils, bittering and malts.
Hanley said a squirt of Mad Hops elevates the base flavor of a beer, then adds fruit and other natural flavorings. The product launched earlier this year with six varieties — Pale Ale, Irish Porter, Wild Blueberry, Cherry Wheat, Apple Amber and Mexican Lime. More are planned.
Hanley added that Mad Hops transforms the taste, color and aroma of regular, everyday beer, and one bottle flavors up to 18 beers. He is the first to admit his product does not produce craft beer.
“We are not the enemy of the craft beer industry. We just want to make budget beer better,” he said. “We can even make Keystone better. It’s surprising how good the product is. We hear that from people all the time.”
The suggested retail price for a bottle of Mad Hops is $7.99. Now through the end of the year, people can buy a variety pack online at gomadhops.com and get all six flavors for $29.99 — a savings of $3 a bottle. Hanley calls it the perfect stocking stuffer for the beer lover on your Christmas list.
In addition to Hanley’s hopyard, ingredients for Mad Hops are sourced from New York, Michigan and the Midwest. The product is bottled and packaged in Florida, with a warehouse and fulfillment center in western New York.
Hanley went through a number of trial efforts, mostly in his kitchen, before coming out with a finished product.
“We had some recipes we worked with, but it took some time. Then we brought in a beverage consulting firm and went to a flavorhouse,” he said. “We were still struggling with some problems, so we brought in beer experts and relaunched the product.”
While Mad Hops can be enjoyed by older adults who drink beer at home, Hanley had millennials in mind when he created it. He has been to numerous festivals and trade shows over the past year, including the Finger Lakes Beer Festival in Watkins Glen.
“Millennials drink flavored water, they drink flavored coffee, but they don’t flavor their beer. Flavoring beer is all we are doing, and we were the hit of the festival,” he said. “This is not a scam. It’s a fun product, but it’s also a serious product.”