Developing and introducing new hop varieties is a lot of fun. It’s also nerve wracking and risky! Nobody has a beer going that uses the hop of course, and it takes time for new hops to be “discovered” as unique and useful in helping to sell beer. And let’s face it, most breweries committed to more hops than they can actually use at the moment, so not many breweries have room to start using a new hop right away, even if pilot brews were a huge success.
But it is a lot of fun! This year we have over 150 new genotypes to evaluate, and we never tire of the anticipation around what we might find. Plus, even though there is a dizzying array of hop varieties already available, there is opportunity to improve upon the status quo.
More importantly, beer markets are in a challenging time, and the challenges call for breweries to connect with a broader range of consumer preferences. The natural allure of hops plays a critical role in doing so. Humans have a thing for hops, and not just in hop-driven beers but in nearly every beer style conjured up to date. While certain popular IPA profiles may have been maximized at this point, this “mature” market we’ve reached is begging for a second wind from the creativity and skill of craft brewing. A second wind to reach people who prefer IPA profiles other than the ones that have been worked so very hard, and different beer formats that deliver flavors in a way that better suits certain people. There are breweries already doing this with great success, but broadly speaking our industry has gone narrow and deep to this point.
One thing we’ve learned after more than ten years of evaluating new hop genotypes is that nature is the best engineer by far. The natural wonders that are built into hop cones, and what they can do when skillfully used to brew a particular beer is pure joy. That’s why we want to tell you a bit more about some of our unique hops, why we’ve advanced them to become commercially available, and how they can help you pique the interest of thirsty people.
Our most recent release for example is Audacia, a gift of nature that is low-ish alpha at 6%, moderate total oils at 1.4ml/100g of hop, yet bursting with huckleberry, lingonberry, currant, and rose/lilac/lavender floral flavors and aroma. Audacia is a natural in “XPA” and other refreshing styles, yet punches above it’s weight beautifully in IPAs, both clear and hazy. Why did we select Audacia amongst hundreds of other new candidates?
First and foremost was how fantastic the unique flavor and aroma profile tasted in beer. A new hop variety needs to offer new and wonderful hop character that expands the potential for breweries to hook consumers. Otherwise the new hop goes nowhere.
Audacia checks this box along with many others, like excellent natural disease and pest resistance, strong yields and a relatively early harvest window. We’re also excited that Audacia is low in alpha acids and resins compared to most flavor-forward hops, providing more versatility in the brewing process and allowing the luscious flavors to be used in lager styles without disrupting the balance between malt, fermentation, and hop character.
You may wonder how a hop with 1.4ml/100g total oil can contribute distinctive hop flavors in IPAs. Certainly the answer lies partly in the mix of what oils are present, but another key factor is that Audacia is very low in myrcene.
Myrcene is by far the largest fraction of total oil in hops, yet it is elusive and hard to contain in beer, so even hops that are relatively low in myrcene have enough to maximize this oil’s contribution.
Audacia’s total oil is only 25% myrcene. A more typical case would be the Centennial variety which averages 50% myrcene, so at an average total oil of 2.0ml/100g for Centennial, when myrcene is removed the “effective” total oil is slightly higher in Audacia than in Centennial. This is one example of why total oil is not a good indicator of a hops impact.
We think a lot about how a particular hop fits in the current beer universe. Most of them don’t fit at all, but when we come across a hop with Audacia’s uniqueness… or Strata that presents flavors we couldn’t have imagined were possible and an aroma we would cross deserts for… or Lórien so uniquely suited to producing crisp lagers with an irresistible hop finish… Meridian with its brightening sweet-tart contribution to a wide range of styles…or Luminosa’s fresh tropical fruits, peach and candied orange peel…when we come across such hops we know they carry a particular spell that makes people smile. We’re honored to offer little packets of magic that can help satisfy the incredibly diverse range of human preferences for refreshment.