New Hops Arrive at Stone

Jacob McKean

In a recent post, I discussed Baird / Ishii / Stone Japanese Green Tea IPA, a beer we’re brewing to benefit Japanese tsunami relief. You undoubtedly noted the bit about Aramis hops, a new hop variety from the Alsace region of France, which we’re using in that beer.

For those of you that maintain an interest in all matters hop-related, we’re going to delve a bit deeper into the new hop varietal situation here at Stone.

We work with several hop suppliers to keep us stocked with the bitter, aromatic flowers you all know and love. Occasionally, those suppliers will offer us a brand new hop variety, and if it sounds like the flavor and aroma is up our alley, Brewmaster Mitch Steele usually orders a little bit. This occurs infrequently because it can take many years and a significant amount of money to develop a new hop variety.

Once the hops arrive at Stone, Mitch rips open the bag, gives them a sniff, reads up on their stats, then concocts a small-scale pilot recipe that prominently features the new hops. Depending on the results of that experiment, the new hops may be incorporated into a special release (the hops for our core line-up are pretty much fixed.)

Aramis hops getting a close inspection

Which brings us to Aramis hops. As far as we know, we’re the first brewery to brew a commercial beer with Aramis. So what does it taste/smell like, you ask? I conducted an informal poll around the brewery and these are some of the descriptors I got: floral, earthy, woody, Earl Grey, lemon, hay, herbal.

We then went a step further and did a taste test, which needlessly confirmed that eating hops—no matter what the varietal—is a terrible idea.

But that’s not all folks! We have an 11-pound bag of Calypso hops—a fun-sounding newish variety—sitting in our cold box, and we recently ripped that sucker open too. Calypso is an American hop derived from Nugget and USDA 19058m (my personal fav) packing considerably more punch than Aramis. Calypso clocks in at 12-14% alpha acid (the chemical component in hops that contribute bitterness to beer), making it useful as both a bittering and flavor/aroma hop.

Stone Community Relations Manager Chris Cochran gives Calypso hops a sniff

And what an aroma it has! Another informal brewery poll—conducted with a pint glass full of fresh hop pellets—netted these descriptors: lemons, tart apples, cherry blossoms, black pepper, bitter orange, mint, pear. The aroma is at once distinctly American, insofar as it is remarkably unsubtle and sappy, while also being very fruity, a combination unlike any other hops I’ve smelled. It was almost universally well liked by those polled. A 15-gallon single hop IPA is Calypso’s next stop.

And there are still more new hop varieties to come. Columbia, Sonnet, Delta, and Bravo hops will all arrive in the next few months, giving us a remarkably broad new palette of hop flavors with which to experiment. Naturally, we’ll keep you updated.