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The Hop Report: Trending Hops for 2019

You can make beer without hops. However, the odds of making good beer without hops are not incredibly high.

Hops are inextricably entwined with the story of beer, just as they bind to the trellises upon which they ascend every year. They are mysterious, seemingly able to take on elements of nature’s most enticing offerings – mangoes, kiwis, lemons or spices like sage or mint. Of course, being related to the “forbidden fruit” of cannabis only adds to their appeal.

As humans are hardwired to do, we are constantly seeking out the newest and best; the shiniest, ripest, or even most aromatic and flavorful. If a craft beer drinker wants the newest, best or “hottest” beer, much of what will determine their experience stems from the hops contained within.

If the experience is pleasurable, these hops will be cultivated, selectively bred and produced in exponentially larger quantities, just as recent phenoms Mosaic and Citra have been. In fact, despite having only gained traction in the past few years, these two varietals comprised an estimated 15 percent of hops produced and harvested in 2018, according to a Reuters report.

Hop Harvest 2018

On the note of hop harvests, overall estimated numbers from Reuters were down just a touch from 2017, from 118,000 tons to 117,000 with more U.S. hops headed overseas as worldwide craft beer interest grows and domestic interest wanes slightly.

Interestingly, despite comprising roughly 2.5 percent of world beer sales, craft beer consumes 20 to 25 percent of the world’s harvested hops every year.

Below is a list of rising star hops – some of which were made to suit the public’s taste and some of which the public’s palate has evolved to crave.

Each of these hops represent the culmination of years, if not decades, of research and testing. They have been found ideal not only in flavor, but in growth rate, yield capacity, cone size, disease and weather resistance, ease of harvest and storage life. Now they're ready for their time in the brewer's spotlight, each vying for the chance to change the tastes of the beer-drinking public. Success would allow these hops to sit securely alongside the most influential hops of all time by pushing the boundaries of what craft beer can be.

Sabro - Origin: United States

A creation by The Hop Breeding Company (HBC), a venture between John I. Haas, Inc. and Yakima Chief Ranches, LLC, Sabro boasts complex citrus and fruity flavors including tangerine, coconut, tropical fruit and peach with hints of cedar, mint and cream.

Beyond its distinct flavor, this hop breed is exciting due to its neomexicanus heritage, meaning it is born of hops indigenous to the American Southwest. These "wild hops" can be hard to breed, with Sabro representing the culmination of two decades of research, but the end result is more genetic diversity, and a hardier, more robust plant.

"If part of your heritage includes the desert and mountain environments of the Southwestern U.S., you have a strong survival spirit in your genes – the essence of sustainability," said Alex Barth, CEO of John I. Haas in a release.

Loral - Origin: United States

Another HBC creation (which is also responsible for Mosaic and Citra), Loral has been described as "super-noble," referring to its range of characteristics, both noble in nature (peppery, herbal and floral) and the juicy, lemon-citrus notes of newer American varietals.

Described as a great blending hop, with a Goldilocks balance of earthy, citrus and stone fruit notes, it is the result of crossing Glacier hops with a Nugget sub-type.

Lemondrop - Origin: United States

True to the name, Lemondrop offers a pleasant, piquant lemon-citrus character with a similar aroma to boot. Clean citrus and juicy fruit flavors are where this varietal is most comfortable, with spicy herbal notes and the slightest hint of sweetness. As such, this is a more refined hop, not designed to blow the doors down in super high-alpha fashion and will function beautifully in both ales and lagers.

Those looking for similar options will find this to be a fresh take on the old guard of Cascade and Centennial, and unsurprisingly, Lemondrop is the offspring of a female Cascade and an unnamed male, known as USDA 19058.

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