Article

Hot New Hops

Tech companies love talking about “early adopters” — these are the people who are first to get the newest gadget, software, or trend and spread the word to the masses. The brewing industry isn’t so different from tech — new breweries open every week and thousands of new beers roll down their bottling and canning lines as a result. And craft brewers — whether new to the market or giants in the industry — are constantly in search of cool new ingredients as drinkers demand fresh takes on beer styles, especially hops. The great thing about homebrewing is that you can brew whatever you want, with whatever you want, whenever you want. In fact, homebrewers are very often the early adopters who break trends in craft brewing. If you’re one of those homebrewers who can’t wait to brew with the newest ingredients, here are seven new hop varieties to try. 

Ekuanot® (14.5–15% alpha acids)

This variety, formerly known as Equinox, was developed by the Hop Breeding Company (HBC) in Yakima, Washington and released in 2014 as HBC 366. The name of the variety was changed in September 2016 from Equinox to Ekuanot® due to a trademark dispute, and is becoming popular with pro brewers as a late-, whirlpool-, or dry-hop addition. It features aromas of lime, melon, berry, cedar, papaya, clove, and sage. Some brewers also say that the aromas can skew into green bell pepper territory.  Michael Brown, brewer at Mirror Twin Brewing in Lexington, Kentucky brewed the American pale ale Eukanot Tell Me What To Do (see recipe on page 58) with the variety and describes the hop as being very citrus-forward with lots of lemon and lime. “I would say use it as a late-addition and whirlpool-[hop] because of the high alpha acids,” Brown said. 

Commercial beers brewed with Ekuanot®: Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.’s Ruthless Rye IPA (Chico, California), Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.’s Harvest Single Hop IPA (Equinox™) (Chico, California), Great Divide Brewing Co.’s Hop Disciples (Ekuanot®) (Denver, Colorado), Deschutes Brewery’s Pinedrops IPA (Bend, Oregon), Mirror Twin Brewing’s Eukanot Tell Me What To Do (Lexington, Kentucky). 

Loral® (10–12% alpha acids)

Another variety developed by the hopheads at HBC, Loral® was originally known as HBC 291. The folks at HBC describe this hop as having a noble heritage that straddles the fence between Old and New World hop aromatics — sometimes even called a “super noble hop.” Originally released in 2016, Loral® has a lot of big-name brewery representation thanks to its floral, citrusy, and herbal qualities that are perfect for brewing modern IPAs and pale ales, as well as hoppy lagers. Stone Brewing Co. alone has brewed multiple offerings such as Scorpion Bowl, Exalted IPA, and Vengeful Spirit using Loral®. The variety would also work well in any style that’s normally brewed with a noble hop, including porters and stouts, Pilsners, bocks, dunkels, and so on.

Commercial beers brewed with Loral®: Stone Brewing Co.’s Vengeful Spirit IPA (Escondido, California), Lone Pint Brewery’s Zythophile Lone Hop Loral (Magnolia, Texas), Garage Project’s Loral Royale (Wellington, New Zealand), Dogfish Head’s Loral (Milton, Delaware).

Medusa (2.5–4% alpha acids)

This is one of the first commercially-farmed neomexicanus subspecies of hops released to the brewing industry (for more about neomexicanus hops, visit https://byo.com/article/neomexicanus-hops/). The aroma variety comes from CLS Farms in Moxee, Washington, and is sometimes called Multihead. It was released around 2014 (although not made readily available to homebrewers until more recently) and was semi-famously included in Sierra Nevada’s “Harvest Wild Hop IPA” and other “wild hop” brews around that time. There are newer varieties of neomexicanus hops on the market these days that have greater yields for growers (see the section later in this story on Zappa™ hops), CLS, however, plans to market Medusa more exclusively toward homebrewers — so Medusa should be in good supply at most well-stocked homebrew shops. Another cool thing about Medusa hops is that they are not patented so you can source rhizomes fairly easily to grow at home. Look to Medusa for aromas of lemon, lime, apricot, and melon in any American pale ale or IPA, as well as perhaps a saison or wheat beer.

Commercial beers brewed with Medusa: Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.’s Harvest Wild Hop IPA (Chico, California), Burlington Beer Co.’s Single Hop IPA Medusa (Burlington, Vermont), Tröegs Brewing Co.’s Nitro Chocolate Stout (Hershey, Pennsylvania), Crazy Mountain Brewery’s Neomexicanus Native (Denver, Colorado). 

Pahto (17–20% alpha acids)

This “super high” alpha acid bittering hop is one of the newest bittering hop releases from HBC (2018) and is creating a lot of buzz on the commercial brewing side of the industry. It’s currently not widely available to homebrewers, however HBC has 1,700 acres of Pahto™ currently planted, with more planned for this year, and this can only mean that homebrewers will see this variety in homebrew shops sooner rather than later. Look for it and Sabro™ in sample packs for now, and in wider release later in the year. Originally released as HBC 682, this variety is described by HBC as having a “smooth bittering profile with mild, pleasant aromatics.” The name comes from the native name for Mount Adams, which is the second-highest mountain in Washington State. Pahto™ would be appropriate for a very wide variety of beer styles — anything that you would like to brew that would benefit from its clean bittering profile. 

Commercial beers brewed with Pahto™: Because this is such a new release, there aren’t many brews released yet with the official brand name, but you may have seen some limited releases before the hop was named, such as Russian River Brewing Co.’s Hop 2 It (HBC 682) (Santa Rosa, California), Lagunitas Brewing Co.’s New Dogtown HBC 282 Pale (Petaluma, California), and Manor Hill Brewing’s Experimental Hop Series – HBC 682 (Ellicott City, Maryland). 

Sabro™ (12–16% alpha acids)

This variety is one of HBC’s newest aroma hop releases, and is a cross pollination of a female neomexicanus hop. It has been available to homebrewers for a few years at this point, and some might recognize it from its earlier nickname, “Ron Mexico.” HBC describes this hop as strongly expressive, “with distinct tangerine, coconut, tropical fruit, and stone fruit aromas, with hints of cedar, mint, and cream.” Sabro™ has become a bit of a darling among craft brewers since its release as HBC 438, and you can find many commercial examples around the US that are brewed with it. If hop-forward pale ales, IPAs, Pilsners, or wheat beers are your thing, this is definitely a variety you should try.

Commercial Beers Brewed with Sabro™: Odell Brewing Co.’s Sabro IPA (Fort Collins, Colorado), Holy Mountain Brewing’s Sabro Fresh Hop (Seattle, Washington), and Cellarmaker Brewing Co.’s Sabrosa (San Francisco, California). 

Strata® (11-12.5% alpha acids)

Released in 2018, Strata® is a dual-purpose hop that is the first patented variety developed by Portland, Oregon-based Indie Hops in partnership with Oregon State University. Kegerator.com might have nailed the best aroma description of this variety as “passion fruit meets pot” with notes of mango, melon, citrus, and grapefruit — perfect, clearly, for any big, bold, “dank” pale ale and IPA, but also not out of place in any American amber, brown, or stout. Strata® has become an “it” variety among craft brewers, so it might be hard to source at the moment as a homebrewer, though not impossible. With demand will come more production, however, so look for Strata® to hopefully be more available after this year’s hop harvest.

Commercial Beers Brewed with Strata®: Worthy Brewing’s Strata IPA (Bend, Oregon), Bear Republic Brewing’s Strata Rebellion (Cloverdale, California), Base Camp Brewing’s Harvest Saison (Portland, Oregon), Deschutes Brewery’s 2018 Chasin’ Freshies IPA (Bend, Oregon), Mt. Hood Brewing’s Timberline Tucker (Government Camp, Oregon), and Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.’s 2018 Hoptimum (Chico, California).

Where Do New Hops Come From?

It might seem like there are tons of new hop varieties on the market today, but that wasn’t always the case. Only a few decades ago, before craft beer began to boom, commercial brewers worked with fewer than 100 classic varieties. Even the varieties that we nowadays consider “classics” like Centennial, Mt. Hood, and Liberty weren’t released or popular among brewers until around 1990. Up until then, 80% of all the hops grown in the United States were Cluster. 

Hops, like any other agricultural product, have been tinkered with for a long time. In the US alone, hop farming started in Oregon in the 1860s, and the USDA re-established a hop breeding program at Oregon State University in 1935 after Prohibition. After the game-changing popularity of Cascade hops in the late ’80s and early ’90s, however, the interest in developing and releasing new varieties sharply increased, and it’s now common for at least a handful of new varieties to be released each year. 

Developing new hops is not as easy as just planting a few rhizomes in a field and hoping for the best, however. There is a lot of science behind plant development, which takes time (and lots of money). In the US, hops are developed mostly by public breeding programs, although there are also some private breeding programs that are run by hop merchants and growers. The difference, as a consumer, in who breeds and releases hops is that those that originate from a public program can be used by any hop grower, while those developed by private programs are patented — only the hop merchants and growers who fund the programs may grow and sell them.

Most of the money to fund new public hop development in the United States comes from the Hop Research Council (hopresearchcouncil.org), which is a non-profit organization that funds and directs hop research to benefit the US hop industry. A lot of the money for this research comes from the world’s largest brewing companies — AB-InBev, MillerCoors, etc. All US hop dealers belong to this organization, and the HRC decides how funding is distributed among hop researchers. 

There are three methods for producing new varieties: Benefit mutation, mass selection, and chemical inducement. Ralph Olson explained these three methods very well for BYO in the story “Creating New Hop Varieties” (online at https://byo.com/article/creating-new-hop-varieties/.) For every new blockbuster hop that is released, however, thousands more experimental varieties never make it to the market, especially through mass selection. For example, Olson explains, Hopunion USA (now Yakima Chief Hops) crossed more than 10,000 cultivars to come up with a single commercial variety — Columbus. The process can take years before a variety is deemed acceptable. 

Hops are bred to satisfy the tastes and needs of commercial brewers and growers. For example, MillerCoors might decide that they would like a new variety that has a certain aroma. Because MillerCoors is a major financial contributor to the Hop Research Council, and would buy the majority of a crop of a variety that suits their requirements, hop breeding programs will focus their efforts on developing that ideal hop. Craft breweries with buying power have this advantage as well; for example Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. loved CLS Farms’ neomexicanus hop variety, Zappa™ so much that they bought essentially the entire 2015 crop. Surely if Sierra Nevada has a wishlist for another hop variety in the future, hop breeders will make it a priority. For growers, experimental varieties must be pest- and disease-resistant, and growing yields must be consistently viable to be cost effective. If the variety doesn’t meet the requirements of both the grower and the market demand, and is too expensive to grow, an amazing aroma hop that doesn’t produce enough hops is simply not going to make it to release when there are so many other potential varieties waiting in the wings. 

So while homebrewers don’t have the influence to dictate what new hops come on the market, the good thing about today’s often-criticized, fickle, and ever-more-educated beer drinkers is that demand for new styles, and thus innovative ingredients, remains at an all-time high. Literally thousands of new hop varieties are being evaluated and examined right now — the next big hop could be ready for release!

New Hop Recipes

Reuben’s Brews’ Bits and Bobs (2018) clone

(5 gallons/19 L, all-grain)
OG = 1.066  FG = 1.012
IBU = 50  SRM = 5  ABV = 7%


“For our first release of Bits and Bobs in 2018 — our seasonal rotating IPA — we used Strata®, Citra®, and Azacca® as the primary hops. The idea with this specific beer release is that every spring we have a new recipe using the malts and hops we had grown to love over the prior year. It’s the perfect excuse to be continually trying new hops, working with hop farms, and working on new hop blends. For the first release, we had a nice clean malt profile to let the hops shine through and take center stage.”  — Adam Robbings Brewmaster, Reuben’s Brews

Ingredients
11.5 lbs. (5.2 kg) pale malt
1.7 lbs. (0.77 kg) Vienna malt
0.6 lb. (0.27 kg) Carapils® malt
1.6 AAU Simcoe® hops (60 min.) (0.125 oz./3.5 g at 13% alpha acids)
1.5 oz. (43 g) Azacca® hops (0 min.)
0.5 oz. (14 g) Strata® hops (0 min.)
1 oz. (28 g) Citra® hops (0 min.)
1.5 oz. (43 g) Azacca® hops (dry hop)
1.5 oz. (43 g) Strata® hops (dry hop)
1.5 oz. (43 g) Citra® hops (dry hop)
Wyeast 1056 (American Ale) or White Labs WLP001 (California Ale) or SafAle US-05 yeast
3⁄4 cup corn sugar (if priming)

Step by step
Crush the malt and add to 4.3 gallons (16.3 L) strike water to achieve a stable mash temperature at 152 °F (67 °C). Hold at this temperature until enzymatic conversion is complete. Sparge slowly with 168 °F (76 °C) water, collecting wort until the pre-boil kettle volume is 6.5 gallons (24.6 L). 

Boil the wort for 60 minutes, adding the hops as indicated. After the boil is finished, turn off the heat and add the 0-minute hop-stand additions. Stir the wort to create a whirlpool, then let settle for 10 minutes before chilling the wort down to yeast-pitching temperature. Now transfer to the fermenter, aerate the wort, and pitch the yeast. Ferment at 66–68 °F (19–20 °C). 

As the kräusen begins to fall, typically day four or five, add the dry hops to the fermenter and let the beer sit on the hops for four days. Bottle with priming sugar or keg and force carbonate to 2.4 volumes CO2.

Reuben’s Brews’ Bits and Bobs (2018) clone

(5 gallons/19 L, extract with grains)
OG = 1.066  FG = 1.012
IBU = 50  SRM = 5  ABV = 7%

Ingredients

6 lbs. (2.7 kg) extra light dried malt extract
1 lb. (0.45 kg) Vienna dried malt extract
0.5 lb. (0.23 kg) Carapils® malt
1.6 AAU Simcoe® hops (60 min.) (0.125 oz./3.5 g at 13% alpha acids)
1.5 oz. (43 g) Azacca® hops (0 min.)
0.5 oz. (14 g) Strata® hops (0 min.)
1 oz. (28 g) Citra® hops (0 min.)
1.5 oz. (43 g) Azacca® hops (dry hop)
1.5 oz. (43 g) Strata® hops (dry hop)
1.5 oz. (43 g) Citra® hops (dry hop)
Wyeast 1056 (American Ale) or White Labs WLP001 (California Ale) or SafAle US-05 yeast

Step by step

Crush grains and place in a grain bag. Heat 5 gallons (19 L) of water, and add the bagged grains. When the water hits 168 °F (76 °C) , remove the grains and allow to drip back in the kettle. Remove from heat and stir in all the dried malt extract. 

Boil the wort for 60 minutes, adding the hops as indicated. After the boil is finished, turn off the heat and add the 0-minute hop-stand additions. Stir the wort to create a whirlpool, then let settle for 10 minutes before chilling the wort down to yeast-pitching temperature. Now transfer to the fermenter, aerate the wort, and pitch the yeast. Ferment at 66–68 °F (19–20 °C). 

As the kräusen begins to fall, typically day four or five, add the dry hops to the fermenter and let the beer sit on the hops for four days. Bottle with priming sugar or keg and force carbonate to 2.4 volumes CO2.

Mirror Twin Brewing Co.’s Eukanot Tell Me What To Do clone

(5 gallons/19 L, all-grain)
OG = 1.052  FG = 1.010
IBU = 50  SRM = 5  ABV = 5.5%  

“When we made this beer it was summertime so we wanted something citrus and sessionable. The Ekuanot® hops are very citrus-forward with lemon and lime. We were using a pale ale base recipe for the sessionability. I chose the Ekuanot® hops because I tasted them at another local brewery in a S.M.A.S.H. (single malt and single hop) with Golden Promise. I liked that beer and wanted to experiment with the hop myself.”— Michael Brown Assistant Brewer, Mirror Twin Brewing Co.

Ingredients
11 lbs. (5 kg) 2-row pale malt
12 oz. (340 g) caramel malt (20 °L)
5 AAU Ekuanot™ hops (45 min.) (0.33 oz./9 g at 15% alpha acids)
10 AAU Ekuanot™ hops (15 min.) (0.66 oz./19 g at 15% alpha acids)
22.5 AAU Ekuanot™ hops (0 min.) (1.5 oz./43 g at 15% alpha acids)
8 oz. (230 g) Ekuanot™ hops (dry hop)
White Labs WLP008 (East Coast Ale) or Wyeast 1028 (London Ale) or LalBrew New England yeast
3⁄4 cup corn sugar (if priming)

Step by Step
This recipe is designed for homebrewers to achieve 5.5 gallons (21 L) of wort in their fermenter on brew day. This will help offset the loss of volume to the heavy hopping rate of this beer. 

Crush the malt and add to 4 gallons (15 L) of strike water to achieve a stable mash temperature at 150 °F (65.5 °C). After 60 minutes, begin to lauter. 

Boil for 60 minutes, adding the first hop addition 15 minutes after the wort comes to a boil and a second hop addition with 15 minutes left in the boil. After the boil is complete, turn off the heat and add the final hop addition. stir the wort to create a whirlpool, then let settle for 20 minutes before cooling to yeast-pitching temperature. Aerate wort and pitch yeast.

Ferment at 68 °F (20 °C). As the kräusen begins to fall, typically day 4 or 5, add the dry hops. Let the beer sit on the hops for 3–4 days, then transfer to a serving keg or bottling bucket. You may want to cold-crash the beer prior to the transfer by dropping temperature of the beer to 35 °F (2 °C) for 24 hours. Bottle with priming sugar or force carbonate the serving keg to 2.4 volumes CO2.

Mirror Twin Brewing Co.’s Eukanot Tell Me What To Do clone

(5 gallons/19 L, extract with grains)
OG = 1.052  FG = 1.010
IBU = 50  SRM = 6  ABV = 5.5%  

Ingredients
6 lbs. (2.7 kg) extra light dried malt extract
12 oz. (340 g) caramel malt (20 °L)
5 AAU Ekuanot™ hops (45 min.) (0.33 oz./9 g at 15% alpha acids)
10 AAU Ekuanot™ hops (15 min.) (0.66 oz./19 g at 15% alpha acids)
22.5 AAU Ekuanot™ hops (0 min.) (1.5 oz./43 g at 15% alpha acids)
8 oz. (230 g) Ekuanot™ hops (dry hop)
White Labs WLP008 (East Coast Ale) or Wyeast 1028 (London Ale) or LalBrew New England yeast
3⁄4 cup corn sugar (if priming)

Step by Step
Place the crushed malt in a muslin bag. Steep the grains in 6 gallons (23 L) of water at 160 °F (71 °C) for 20 minutes. Remove the grain bag and wash with 2 qts. (2 L) hot water. 

Remove the wort from heat and then stir in the dried malt extract. Stir until all the extract is dissolved and then return the wort to a boil. Boil for 45 minutes, adding the first hop addition when the wort comes to a boil and a second hop addition with 15 minutes left in the boil. After the boil is complete, turn off the heat and add the final hop addition. Stir the wort to create a whirlpool, then let settle for 20 minutes before cooling to yeast-pitching temperature. Transfer wort to a fermenter and top off the fermenter to 5.5 gallons (21 L). Then aerate the wort and pitch yeast.

Ferment at 68 °F (20 °C). As the kräusen begins to fall, typically day 4 or 5, add the dry hops. Let the beer sit on the hops for 3–4 days, then transfer to a serving keg or bottling bucket. You may want to cold-crash the beer prior to the transfer by dropping temperature of the beer to 35 °F (2 °C) for 24 hours. Bottle with priming sugar or force carbonate the serving keg to 2.4 volumes CO2.

Tips for success:

Michael Brown said that Mirror Twin used second generation White Labs WLP008 (East Coast Ale) yeast because it contributes citrus qualities, however he suggests that homebrewers can substitute in their favorite yeast strain that attenuates well and provides a citrus kick without overwhelming the hops. Further, Brown said, “Our recipe was very simple . . . (which) allowed the hops to shine. We also wanted to accentuate the citrus qualities and make this a thirst-quenching beer for summer, so we zested 35 lemons and put the zest in after fermentation was complete.”

Issue: March-April 2019