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The likes of Cascade and Citra have become known around the world as the punchy, pine-and-tropical-fruit-of-your-choice flavour behind hundreds and hundreds of popular pale ales and IPAs. The latter has become the flagship style of modern beer, to the extent that most new trends focus on an iteration of IPA - from the sensible (Session IPA) via the linguistically absurd (Black IPA) to the downright murky (New England IPA, the current flavour of the month).
There’s a romance and simplicity about hops. They are beautiful (everyone should visit a hop garden just before harvest time) and their bold flavour makes their impact on a beer easy to discern. However much brewers and clued-in drinkers might rhapsodise about malts like the English variety Maris Otter or those produced by Bamberger Malzerei in Germany, there’s an obviousness to hops that makes them easier to appreciate.
It’s for this reason that there’s so much interest in new and revived varieties. Here are five to look out for:
This is not a new hop; in fact, it’s a very old hop, having been released onto the market in the 1930s. It was grown and used in England and - particularly - the US as a bittering hop for many years, but it fell out of favour in the 1980s and has only recently enjoyed a partial revival. That’s being led by Hukin’s Hops, a small hop producer in Kent, England’s traditional hop-growing county. So good is their Bullion that it was named best in show at the British Hops Award last year. The hop tends to display spicy orange and blackcurrant notes.
American hops have a well-earned reputation for big flavours; think Mosaic or Citra, both of which have tropical fruit character to spare. But perhaps the tide is beginning to turn; a number of bigger American craft breweries are beginning to get into the pale lager game, which requires a less potent, more elegant hop character. That’s where Loral comes in. Released in 2016, this hop has noble European characteristics - peppery, herbal - alongside some more restrained American flavours. It’s smooth rather than intense.
You might expect a hop of this name to be as all-American as the film star that inspired it, but it actually comes from Germany. The German hop industry, which for many years was as conservative as its brewing brethren, has belatedly woken up to the worldwide interest in diverse hop flavours. Mandarina Bavaria, which is as fruit-forward as its name suggests, has led the way, and after a slow start its popularity is growing. In its wake have come hops like Monroe, which is smooth and restrained in the German tradition, but with plenty of red-fruit character.
Few hops have enjoyed as much of a fanfare as Sabro, which was released onto the market in April this year. Created by the Hop Breeding Company (whose previous hits include Citra, Mosaic and Loral), it boasts a complex fruit and citrus character that should appeal to those aiming to making hop-forward beers. “We at the HBC truly believe that Sabro will quickly become another brewer favourite,” says Mike Smith of Loftus Ranches and Select Botanicals Group (which co-owns HBC). If that turns out to be the case, this could soon be one of the craft-beer world’s favourite hops.
Styrian Wolf (Slovenia)
Slovenia has long been known for Styrian Goldings, which have been grown in the country since the 1930s. (Actually, they’re not Goldings but the other great English variety, Fuggles, although they’re slightly bolder in flavour.) One of the most interesting new hops to come out of Slovenia in recent years in Styrian Wolf, which - appropriately enough - has rather more bite than SG. Created at the Slovenian Institute for Hop Research and Brewing, it’s got plenty of tropical fruit character alongside soft melon and blueberry.