Tools for Your Hop Playbook: Experimental Hop Varieties

Hops haven’t always been the incredible rainbow of varieties that we have access to today. Since their first recorded use in the 8th Century BCE, there has been over a millennium of selective breeding, cross pollination, and innovation, leading to the favorite hops of today. That level of experimentation has only got bigger and bolder in recent years, as brewers and beer drinkers alike are always thirsting for the latest hoppy wonder. World class hop breeding programs have brought to market hops that have changed the trajectory of the craft beer that producers, consumers, and suppliers know today.

Yakima Chief Hops (YCH) shares a partnership with Yakima Chief Ranches, which specializes in breeding innovative and renowned hop varieties. The hop breeding program has helped bring to the world varieties like Mosaic®, Citra® and Simcoe®, and there are many more currently in development for brewers’ insatiable appetite for quality hops. A few have reached the Elite Trials stage, where they are tested in the most important stage of all: in beer. Feedback from brewers and the beer-loving public is essential in the development of experimental hops, and there is no better way of understanding what a hop can do than brewing it into a beer.

HBC 586 is one such Elite Trial hop, one that has been cultivated for an immense fruit basket of flavor. It shines when used to dry hop, as its big mango aromas and complex herbal notes are able to take a life of their own in the nose of the beer.

Another Elite Trial hop is HBC 630, which overflows with tropical citrus flavors that can only be described as “fruity,” fortified with sophisticated woody notes. A descendent of the classic hop Warrior®, HBC 630’s high alpha acid content allows it to impart both a characterful bitterness as well as splashes of aroma.

HBC 638 continues the Elite Trial showcase, brimming with sweet aromas and tropical flavors. When used in a beer, it brings an abundance of fresh, ripe exotic fruit.

HBC 586

HBC 630

HBC 638

What does “HBC” stand for? Experimental varieties remain without a name while they are in the trial stage. An unnamed hop is called by its cultivar, which includes the hop breeding program’s code and trial number. Hop Breeding Company (HBC) is a joint venture hop breeding program between Yakima Chief Ranches and John I. Haas. Once a variety has passed through all trial stages and ready for commercialization, it will be given a name by the respective hop breeding company.

With most new hop varieties taking about 8-11 years to be brought to market and commercialized, the experimental varieties are a hint of the future for beer lovers. Hop suppliers, breweries, homebrewers, and beer consumers all contribute to the innovation of beer, by pushing the boundary, exploring uncharted territory and experimenting to find the next glorious hop revelation.