By Brian Crosby, Crosby Hop Farm's Global Account Manager
For the Oregon Beer Growler
U.S. hop acreage in 2016 surpassed Germany with a record 53,200 acres compared to 46,000 acres. The four Cs — Cascade, Centennial, Chinook and Citra — topped the 2016 crop hop charts, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service. But with so many great legacy and experimental varieties available, how does a brewer choose what is right for the next brew?
At Crosby Hop Farm, we offer nine sustainable Crosby-grown varieties which are all Salmon-Safe certified. We also source dozens of additional varieties grown locally and around the world. Most of the hops that we source are in leaf form and processed in our 2,500-pounds-per-hour on-farm pellet mill. The Crosby® brand Type 90 pellets are about 15 percent less dense than a standard hop pellet. Our pellets are milled at lower temperatures for higher alphas to retain maximum oil content and better aromatics. This “softer” pellet is ideal for dry hopping applications common in the craft brewing industry.
Looking ahead to 2017, there are a few standout hop varieties that brewers should be aware of: Comet, Idaho 7 and Amarillo® (VGXP01). Skip to the bottom of the article for tips on three bonus “public” varieties: Nugget, Crystal and Chinook.
Alpha Acids: 9-11 percent
Beta Acids: 4-6 percent
Total Oils: 1-1.5 milliliters/100 grams
Comet is an "old school" hop by American standards, bred in the 1960s and released in 1974 as a high-alpha hop. Recently, brewers have discovered that Comet is almost in the Citra category, but is more complex — and in my opinion, more interesting. We anticipate increased presence of Comet in the craft marketplace as beer trends move toward lower alpha and finer aromatic qualities over the common bitter hop bombs. The Comet’s tropical fruit notes, intense citrus and grapefruit, are sure to send hoppy beer drinkers back for another round. Additionally, Comet is a late-season hop, which is a plus for growers. We will harvest our first Comet crop in 2017.
Breakside Brewery recently showcased Comet in their aptly titled beer, “Rainbows & Unicorns IPA.” Used in conjunction with Galaxy and El Dorado, it created a citrus medley that was punchy and juicy. We're looking forward to this beer being released again in 2017.
Alpha Acids: 12-14.5 percent
Beta Acids: 4-5 percent
Total Oils: 1.3-2.0 milliliters/100 grams
With experimental varieties on the rise, Idaho 7 is a solid choice for consistent and tasty results, primarily in IPAs. Developed by Nate Jackson of Jackson Hop Farm in Wilder, Idaho and released in 2015, it presents a beautiful bouquet of stone fruit, fresh herbs, mild citrus and pine with balancing notes of pineapple and mango. Idaho 7 is often used in IPAs in late additions and dry hopping.
Crosby Hop Farm was an early proponent in sourcing this variety. Blake Crosby, CEO and Beau Evers, regional account manager visited Jackson in 2014 to check out multiple bales of experimental hops labeled 1, 2, 3, 4 and so on. Bale 7 stood out for its intriguing aroma. About 2,000 pounds of this experimental hop were sent back to Crosby Hop Farm where it was pelletized and sampled by brewers from around the country. Sierra Nevada Brewing Company used Idaho 7 as the showcase hop in the Harvest Single Hop IPA, which was part of the five-bottle 2015 Harvest series.
Amarillo® (VGXP01) - Crosby® Grown, Salmon-Safe Variety
Alpha Acids: 8-11 percent
Beta Acids: 6-7 percent
Total Oils: 1.5-1.9 milliliters/100 grams
Amarillo® (VGXP01) is one of the most utilized and sought-after hops in craft brewing. This variety was discovered by Virgil Gamache Farms of Toppenish, Wash. Planted at Crosby Hop Farm in 2014 and first harvested in 2015, Crosby Hop Farm was the first Oregon grower licensed to cultivate this varietal. Its relatively high alpha acid properties and the amount of myrcene present in this varietal invite grapefruit and orange aromas on top of heavy citrus flavors. Amarillo® was one of the most popular varieties used in local fresh-hop beers.
Bonus Hop Varieties
A few additional varieties we recommend for a brewer’s short list for 2017 include:
Nugget – Crosby® Grown, Salmon-Safe Variety: This is the second-most widely grown hop variety in Oregon and a great high-alpha variety, but Nugget is also a great dual-purpose hop. Nugget is most often used by brewers for bittering, though its inviting aromatic profile (juicy citrus and spice) also means it can be effective in late additions and dry hopping.
Crystal - Crosby® Grown, Salmon-Safe Variety: Crystal is a publicly bred hop variety that’s extremely versatile. Crystal originated from the German Hallertau Mittelfruh hop and is used in lagers, ales and other styles. Crystal has aromatic notes that are woodsy, green, floral and fruity with herb and spice notes of cinnamon and black pepper. Crystal is used in Ninkasi’s Total Domination IPA.
Chinook - Crosby® Grown, Salmon-Safe Variety: First harvested in 2015 at Crosby Hop Farm, this variety can be used in countless ways. Huge notes of grapefruit and beautiful floral bouquets allow this hop to shine as an aroma addition, but it has the alpha content to do the trick as a prominent bittering hop. Crosby Chinook is unique in that it is less piney and has more floral and citrus notes than Chinook from other areas, making it regarded as a truly unique hop by some well-regarded regional brewers.
Brian Crosby is responsible for presenting a wide range of hop products to craft brewers along the West Coast and overseas. A fourth-generation Crosby hop family member, Brian uses his expertise in management and engineering to lead the continued expansion and innovation of Crosby Hop Farm. He served in the U.S. Navy and obtained a degree in Civil Engineering from Oregon State University. Brian’s known affectionately as “Uncle B” among the staff at Crosby Hop Farm.