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Wild Hops of the West

1 month ago, by Sierra Nevada
Posted in Our Beer, Hops

It’s amazing what you might find hiding in your backyard, if only you take the time to look. The newest and most exciting hop working its way into our next beer didn’t come from Europe and it wasn’t from the new breeding cooperative; it was here all along, just waiting to be tried.

Neomexicanus hops are a wild, native species that grow in the harsh, dry mountains of the American West. They thrive at high elevations ranging from the Mexican border all the way north into Montana. These new hops are not just a hot varietal, but an all new species of Humulus lupulus, the hops we all know and love.

Neomexicanus has been known to native tribes in the Southwest for centuries, but it wasn’t until fairly recently that they found their way into beer. A man named Todd Bates first had the idea to begin collecting different species of the Neomexicanus that grew near his home in Taos, New Mexico. He started planting them on his property and even began experimenting with crossbreeding the plants.

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Bates contacted hop farmer Eric Desmarais with the idea to grow the hop on a commercial scale. Desmarais collected and planted a few of the varietals on his CLS Farms in Yakima, Washington—the heart of the American hop growing industry. Some of these cultivated varietals are maturing now, for the first time, on a scale appropriate for a commercial beer release, and we’re thrilled to showcase this new hop in our next Harvest beer.

This year’s crop of Neomexicanus is very low in alpha acid (responsible for the bittering property of hops) but high in flavor and aroma. These bizarre multi-headed cones have interesting aromas of stone fruit—notably peach and apricot—and yield an alluring, smooth, fruity flavor atypical of other varieties.

As the demand for IPAs and other hop-heavy styles continues to surge, we’re constantly searching for new and interesting hop flavors. As these wild hops become more commercially viable, we’re excited to see what the future will bring. All over the country, wild hops are growing in valleys, thickets and roadway brambles, just as they always have. Neomexicanus is the first in what we hope to be many backyard discoveries.

Try this new wild hop in our Harvest Wild Hop IPA-Neomexicanus, available this December.