On the second episode of the All About Beer Podcast hosts Em Sauter and Don Tse are joined by author and journalist Stan Hieronymus and Shaun Townsend, Associate Professor, Senior Research in the Crop and Soil Sciences Department at Oregon State University.
Together they go through hop breeding, naming, and how growing hops has been impacted by climate change.
Eventually the conversation turns to the future of hops, and Hieronymus talks about the birth of Citra and how it became one of beer’s most popular hops.
“In terms of thinking about the future, I think the Citra hop is a really nice example about how things change,” says Hieronymus.
Citra was a cross that was originally made in the 1980s, says Hieronymus and through breeding by 1990 resembled the hop that would be known as Citra.
“Citra was the hop at the center of when people started talking about tropical and fruity [in beer] when it was released in 2008. But that hop was developed years earlier for one brewery that financed this and at the time, that was through the Haas breeding program,” explains Hieronymus who notes that the brewery that first funded Citra is not often publicized but is located in the north of England.
Haas, through its private breeding program planted 50 potential varieties for that brewery and while none were selected, the one that would eventually become Citra stood out and was set to the side to keep trials going. That hop was sent to a second brewery, he says, who also did test batches with it but eventually passed on the opportunity.
Citra Gets its Shot
By the early 2000s Miller Brewing reached out to Haas and said they were interested in a hop that had a citrus fruity character, and Citra was once again ready for its spotlight.
“They did bunches of test beers including a double IPA,” says Hieronymus. “Eventually, Miller just didn’t know what they would do with the hop. And they were probably right.”
By then, the hop breeding program had combined with other programs from Yakima ranches “and they began to put this hop in the hands of other craft breweries, and they financed it out to multiple acres,” he says.
Those breweries included Widmer Brothers, Sierra Nevada Brewing Company, and Deschutes Brewery.
“And in 2008 Widmer, brewing with this experimental hop, won a gold medal at the World Beer Cup and at that point it was going public,” says Hieronymus. “It only took 18 years.”
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