If you travel south on I-82 from the HAAS® Innovations Campus, and manage to not get detoured by Los Hernandez Tamales along the way, in about 30 minutes you’ll arrive at the HAAS Yakima Golding Hop Farm in Toppenish, deep in the heart of Yakima Valley. There, you’ll likely find Michael Ferguson, head of HAAS’ hop breeding program, tending to hops in our beloved “Field of Dreams.”
In a typical year, hundreds of brewers and brewing professionals make their way to the HAAS Experimental Fields. It’s a chance to walk through the rows, surrounded by towering hop trellises, the air filled with the smell of lupulin. Grab a hop cone, break it open, inhale deeply. In that moment, you are, in fact, time-traveling. Catching a rare glimpse of future beer.
“Each year starts a new cycle in the breeding program,” says Ferguson. “We’ll do between 50 to 75 hybrid crosses that consist of matings between two different hop pedigrees—say, a Sabro® female hop and a Citra® male.” Out of those matings, the HAAS breeding team will get around 10,000 to 20,000 new hop progeny. “Generating that new population of hops is the most important thing we do each year,” Ferguson says, adjusting his wide-brimmed hat.
“Then, we go through the process of looking at the agronomic factors. So, does it yield? How does it do on resisting pests, like powdery mildew or spider mites? And we spend a lot of time on consistency—consistency of yield for the grower, and consistency for flavor. How does it perform in our brewing trials?”
That process Ferguson talks about can take approximately five to ten years. So, when you’re walking through the Field of Dreams, the hops have been in Research & Development for probably four or five years—and they still have three to five more to go before they hit commercial availability. It’s a long, arduous process, which is why HAAS is part of the Hop Breeding Company (HBC). The HBC is dedicated to getting new hop varieties to market more quickly, responsibly, and sustainably than ever before.
Since you probably can’t make it to HAAS’ Experimental Fields this year, we want to give you a sense of what you’d see, smell and taste if you could be here in person.
“HBC 630 is just a big, fruit-forward hop. I know a few brewers have experimented with this, but we continue to see a lot of potential for 630 as the market for IPAs keeps moving along. It’s like an incredible fruit cocktail, you get really well-rounded fruity hop character that’s great in just about any beer style.”
Every performance needs great supporting characters, and HBC 522 is this year’s favorite. “It’s not designed to be a high-impact flavor hop,” says Ferguson. “It’s a beautiful blender hop that helps round out flavors and gives them greater depth. It’s very similar to a Cascade, so it’s targeted at Pale Ales and American style Lagers. But it’s also very high-yielding and it picks late in the season, which is great for sustainability and farm logistics.”
“This is a high-impact hop that we’ve been showing for a few years, and we’ve gotten a lot of excitement from brewers every time they try HBC 586. There’s a ton of mango and big citrus flavors but also these herbal notes. To me, I even get a sense of cayenne pepper—so just this little kick that’s really interesting. It’s a big IPA hop, and definitely for fruit-forward beers.”
TALUS™ (HBC 692 c.v.)
“Talus is a huge, punch-you-in-the-face IPA hop. The flavor components are big and exciting. There’s grapefruit, pine and floral just turned up to the max. It has a real signature flavor and signature taste to it that is super impressive. It just knocks your socks off.” HAAS recently announced the commercial release of this new proprietary hop. You can learn more about Talus here.
We have trial quantities available today! If you’d like to learn more about any of these experimental varieties, visit our hops page, contact your HAAS Sales Representative or check out our distributor page for more information. You can also see an interview with Michael Ferguson and Roy Johnson as part of our 2020 HAAS Virtual Harvest Experience.