High on Hops: Experimental Hop Varieties
After you’ve sampled enough beer, you start to pay close attention to things like hops.
For drinkers consumed with getting the most hop bite possible, researching International Bitterness Units (IBUs) becomes a religion. That’s an easy enough road to travel. But for those looking to understand the more subtle aromatic or flavor profiles available from hops, knowing the individual hop varietal names becomes important.
The old standbys of Willamette, Cascade and Saaz are still around, each providing mild bases for all-purpose brewing. As palates for more extreme flavors have grown, the rise of new, trendy hops like Citra, Galaxy and Falconer’s Flight have come to the fore. But even these fairly recent hop creations are already being edged out by experimental hops so new they don’t even have proper names yet.
Hop Breeding Company is making many of these new strains available directly to home brewers and commercial breweries alike. Recognized by its use of the “HBC” prefix, these hops are re-creating favorite varieties with new twists and forging new profiles. “HBC 342” is a dual usage hop that addresses aroma and flavor by infusing citrus notes like melon and mango.
In the United Kingdom, Charles Faram Hop Merchants is similarly looking to crack the code on new hop creations. Named using the “CF” prefix, these hops are bringing the stalwart hop producer, in business since 1865, into the modern age. CF103 (or Duchess) is prominently showcased in Eden Brewery’s Antifreeze for floral, pepper and spicy notes.
Sierra Nevada has been bringing experimental hops to the masses with its Harvest : Newly Developed Hop IPA. This beer allows the seasoned craft brewery to test out fresh flavors and hopping techniques against a large sample group. The hops in this release, listed only as 472, 05256, 431, and 06300 bring in a multitude of complementary sensations such as cedar, coconut, chocolate and orange.
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Deschutes’ Hop Henge IPA utilizes newcomers Millennium, Mandarina Bavaria and still-numbered hops into a brew brimming with fleshy orange sweetness, grapefruit bitterness and a cracker-malt base.
As with any new endeavor, trial and error will play in to whether any of these new, experimental hop varieties will become mainstream. But with the continued growth in craft beer, differentiating brews by use of new hops will be a big trend as breweries attempt to push the flavor envelope.