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Innovative Neomexicanus Hop Brings Unique Fruity Flavors to Award-Winning Hazy L IPA

Innovative Neomexicanus Hop Brings Unique Fruity Flavors to Award-Winning Hazy L IPA

In the wake of our GABF medal win, Quality/Sensory Manager Jacqueline Beard shares our excitement around Sabro, the unique hop that gives Hazy L IPA its tropical, piña colada like aromas.  

We found out a few weeks ago that Bale Breaker won a silver medal at the Great American Beer Festival (GABF) in the Juicy/Hazy Pale Ale category for Hazy L IPA, our first hazy IPA released in cans. As one of our team members said, “In the beer industry, this is like winning an Olympic medal.”

We’re humbled by and excited about this recognition. With Hazy L IPA, we set out to make a flavorful, crushable, and universally loved hazy IPA with stable, fruity hop aromas that lasted throughout the beer’s shelf life.

Hazy L has an incredibly unique flavor and aroma profile, and we’re convinced that this beer’s yummy peach-Os and coconut cream character come from Sabro™ (HBC 438), a unique hop bred from the southwestern American native hop, Humulus lupulus var. neomexicanus, and shepherded to fermentation tanks all over the world by hop breeders, hop growers, and homebrewers here in the Yakima Valley who recognized this unusual hop’s potential.

The story of Sabro™ is a true American story of luck, heartbreak, and grit according to our friend Jason Perrault, the CEO and head hop breeder for Yakima Chief Ranches. Cultivated during a two-decades-long breeding process, Sabro™ was the daughter of a monster Humulus lupulus var. neomexicanus female plant originally from the mountains of New Mexico which outgrew everything else in the greenhouse. For almost a decade in the late 90s and early 2000s, Sabro™’s mother (Known as YCR123) flowered late in the season in the greenhouse, her unique potential untapped, until a cross with a mixture of pollen in the mid-2000s resulted in diverse single hill plantings which would become the next generation in hop breeding.

One of these single hills caught the attention of local homebrewers and hop afficionados in the late 2000s, who nicknamed this unique hop “Ron Mexico” and were surprised and delighted by how the tropical, coconut, peach, and herbal aromas present in the raw hops translated into their beers.

In our humble opinions, this is truly the magic of Sabro™ and the rest of her family: what you smell in raw hop form is what you get in the beer. Other hops can be unpredictable in how they translate from raw hop to beer: like Ahtanum, which is a dud as a hop pellet but brings graceful floral and apricot aromas to Field 41 Pale Ale. With neomexicanus hops, the tropical fruit, woody, creamy and herbal characters you smell in the hop pellets translate into the finished beer.

Hazy L features three main hops: Citra®, Sabro™, and a sprinkle of Mosaic®. The graph below shows the raw hop sensory (sniffing) data from these hops, assessed by our trained panel of tasters on an intensity scale from 1 (least) to 10 (most). As you can see, Sabro™ has a unique sensory fingerprint, with tons of sweet aromatic (coconut cream) character, as well as floral, tropical (pineapple), stone fruit (peach-Os candy) and berry aromas. Citra® and Mosaic®, which are descended from European hops, translate instead into the beer with citrus and woody/pine aromas, with spicy, tropical fruits, berries, and chive-like garlic nuances showing through. 

According to Jason, “the world wasn’t ready” for Sabro™ or her sisters when they first identified and started using these hops in trials. Since then, beer trends of increasing tropical and fruity hop aromas with low bitterness (in other words, hazy IPAs) have created a place for these neomexicanus hops in breweries around the world. Unfortunately, YCR123 wouldn’t live to see her daughters’ rise to fame: when the Hop Breeding Company transferred nurseries a few years ago, the mother plant died shortly after being replanted at the new site.

Here at Bale Breaker, we’ve been fans of the intense, unique flavors of Sabro™ for a while. Brewmaster Kevin Smith remembers sniffing it for the first time during the 2012 harvest, while the brewery was under construction, when his father and brother planted an experimental hop block next to the milk house where they were creating pilot brews and developing the recipes that would become Field 41 Pale Ale and Topcutter IPA. All the brewers who came to visit the family hop farm went into the field to sniff Sabro™ and her sister, HBC 472, on the bine, and their minds were blown by their unique aromas. We’ve been brewing with this experimental hop since we started the Imagination Station in 2017, and some of our staff favorite recipes have featured it, including Irieshun, our first Clarity Rarity release. So it was a no-brainer to join less than 10 other breweries nationally to contract for this hop in 2019, when our family farm started growing it on a large scale, and to include it in the recipe for Hazy L IPA.

Posted November 20, 2020

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