Actually, Grossman said they have a little bit of Bullion growing on their home farm but agreed that the variety is “pretty much gone.” And to think it was used in the long-gone but not forgotten Ballantine IPA. For his part, Grossman won’t let Cascade vanish into obscurity. “Cascade won’t go away because we pay to have it planted. We buy most of the Cascade grown in the U.S. so we’re supporting that variety, like heirloom tomatoes.”
Industry-wide and industry-wise, there’s little to no interest in heirloom hops. Dr. Henning is merely interested in them for cataloging purposes. Growers don’t find them practical and breeders don’t find them profitable. Everyone wants new world hops. And the new flavors they introduce.
Another new hop that Widmer brewer Casey experimented with is called Galaxy and, while nominally in use in its native Australia, Widmer Bros. Galaxy-Hopped Barleywine Ale may be the first beer it showed up in domestically. The name is part of a trend to give such new world hops a high-profile platform.
We first saw this with Weyerbacher’s Double Simcoe IPA. Of course, that hop enjoys ravenous demand today. Hop farmer Eric Desmarais paid attention and set about creating his own new cultivar on his own CLS Farms in the Yakima Valley in an attempt to, in his own words, “piggyback” off the success of Simcoe. He began working on it in 2008 during the infamous hop shortage that caused the price of hops to skyrocket. “That helped recapitalize a lot of farms including my farm. Anybody who’s been in the hops industry knows it’s boom and bust cycles.”
He is marketing El Dorado hops and there’s already Flying Dog’s Imperial IPA Single Hop El Dorado. Is it so amazing that he’s finding unimagined demand with his very first attempt? Or will craft breweries—in an attempt to be the one to claim first—release new beers with any new hop coming down the pipe? (In El Dorado’s case, no less a hop maestro than Matt Brynildson, the brewer behind Firestone-Walker’s Union Jack IPA, is singing the hop’s praises from the mountaintop; Cigar City incorporated it into their Li’l Warmer Barleywine; and the New Belgium/Elysian collaboration Hop Trip VII is a “Black Belgo IPA bittered with Argentinean Cascade hops and finished with El Dorado whole hops.”)
Galaxy is described as imparting passion fruit. El Dorado’s descriptors include watermelon and “cherry Life Savers.” What people smell while conducting rub and sniff tests don’t always translate to the finished beer, but the industry is hell-bent on discovering wild aromatics. Unlike the shuttle Discovery that is heading for the Smithsonian, breeders and brewers don’t put hops in a museum. Nostalgia doesn’t push the envelope for new beers.
The HBC almost got lucky with the timing of their release of Citra during The Great Hop Shortage, which wasn’t relegated to Yakima but occurred worldwide. The fact that hops are now being bred and grown from New Mexico to Alabama, and from Tasmania to Xinjiang (China) means that the opportunity for interesting new varietals springs eternal. Don’t be surprised if Perrault releases the one he said really picks up a cheesecake aroma. If he does, that experimental, numbered hop may become an A-lister or never even land a walk-on role. Next, his own two kids may breed hops in the future (they potentially represent his family farm’s fifth generation) with the mission to boldly spice where no beer has gone before.