When you hear the word “Nectaron,” what comes to mind? A hybrid or electric vehicle? A goddess in Greek mythology? The villain in the next “Transformers” movie?
Nectaron is actually none of those things. It’s a new hop, one of several starting to make noise in the beer world. But could this nascent New Zealand variety, which debuted in 2020 and quickly gained fans with its intense aromas of pineapple and passion fruit, enjoy the same popularity and widespread demand as, say, Citra or Cascade?
Over the past few decades, the search for unique and bold flavors among craft brewers and consumers has fueled a surge in hop breeding (it’s also resulted in a burgeoning segment of hop-derived products designed to enhance flavor and provide more efficiency and consistency). The popularity of IPA, particularly the hazy New England category, is the primary driver of such innovation, and most new varieties are tailored to deliver its signature fruity, tropical profile. But there are also emerging cultivators well suited for lagers, saisons, and darker styles. Across the globe, breeders and growers are continuously working to develop exciting hops to stay ahead of trends and demand.
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The breeding process is laborious — Nectaron, for example, took 17 years to hit commercial markets — and the success metrics are many, extending beyond appealing aromas once it reaches the glass; agronomic traits such as yield and disease resistance are also determining factors in what gets released. That’s why, for brewers like Chris Shelton at Whole Foods Market Brewing Company in Houston, (yes, that Whole Foods; two locations of the natural foods supermarket chain also contain small-production breweries), there is something particularly thrilling about the prospect of using a new hop. “Whenever I can get my hands on one, it immediately goes into my brew schedule,” Shelton says. “I’ve been brewing for over 20 years, but I’m not one of those that is cemented in my ways. I love experimenting, working with new flavors. I’m going to keep pushing until I feel like I’ve made the best beer ever.”
With that said, what might be the next hop to rise in prominence over the coming years? Will it be an experimental cultivar bound for wider distribution or the resurgence of an established yet underappreciated variety that sends beer makers in delicious new directions?
To help keep lovers of all things lupulin in the loop, we asked 14 brewers around North America to play prognosticator and pick the one hop they believe is poised to pop to the top. Here’s what they had to say.
The Next Big Hop According to Brewers:
- HBC 1019
- Idaho 7
- HBC 586
- Pacific Sunrise
“Nectaron is a rockstar hop right now. I was fortunate enough to contract some both in 2021 and for this year, so it’s been my feature hop in my flagship IPA, Wholistic Hazy, and many other brews. I could write a book about my feelings for this variety. The first thing I noticed was, right out of the gate, it performs amazing. A lot of my hops need weeks of conditioning to get that ‘smooth’ hoppy character, but Nectaron shines on the first day; brings a huge citrusy, pineapple aroma and flavor. I personally get a kiss of floral in the back when I do single-hopping, which brings an amazing depth. Nectaron is a perfect single hop, but it also works amazing in combinations. My most popular and highest-rated beers have been combining Nectaron with Citra and El Dorado, but it works equally well with everything I’ve thrown at it.” — Chris Shelton, head brewer, Whole Foods Market Brewing Company, Houston
“Over the last year and a half, we’ve worked on a lot of cool projects at the Domino Park location. We started our seltzer program, worked with tons of new yeast strains, and have had access to lots of new experimental hops. One cultivar that has come across the table and been a standout is HBC 1019 from Haas. It’s certainly one of the most unique hops I’ve worked with in a long time. Insanely tropical, it’s the perfect blend of Piña Colada and peach gummy rings. It has all the aroma and flavor profiles that you could use in a single-hop beer, as we did with Future Fresh: HBC 1019, and I’m sure it would also play extremely well with others.” —Stjepan Pavich, head of innovations, Other Half Brewing Company, Brooklyn
“I talked with our raw materials manager Tim Miller about this, and we’re both on the same wavelength. We really like an emerging new hop that is currently known as HBC 1019. It has a really cool aromatic profile that’s perfect for IPAs, with a lot of tropical coconut character and even notes of watermelon and strawberry. If Citra and Sabro had a baby, HBC 1019 would be it. In terms of hops that are commercially available at this time, we love Vista from the public hop breeding program. We’ve used it in a few beers already at our Propagator R&D brewhouse. It has that assertive tropical character you want from a new-age IPA hop, but also has these unique pear and white peach and honeydew qualities. Tim and I are really excited about the hops that are coming out of the USDA public hop breeding program and are available to all growers, and Vista is a great example.” —Matt Brynildson, brewmaster, Firestone Walker Brewing Company, Paso Robles, Calif.
“The next big hop will be Vista, a terrific lager hop that has a subtle profile thanks to the aromatic qualities of melons, papaya, and pear. It’s a newer release and we’ve had a lot of fun playing with it, having success dialing up the subtle fruity notes for hoppier ales that make Vista a really versatile and impactful variety.” —Megan Parisi, head brewer, Samuel Adams Boston Taproom, Boston
“This summer has been quite the barn burner for us, so I haven’t spent too much time out of our cellar, but I have been so fortunate to have some great friends visit with incredible ideas and new opportunities. When Hopsteiner sales rep Heather McReynolds presented us with the idea to brew collaboratively for the upcoming Master Brewers Association Brewing Summit conference in Providence, we decided to push the limits of two new varietals, Solero and HS17701, in our latest volume of Stash, an IPA series with rotating hops. These hops together bring forward huge aromas of peach and yuzu with a soft honeydew melon finish. While this melange of flavor is a result of the pair, I truly believe HS17701 is pushing this brew to 11. Opening the bag and initial rub tests brought forward a curious blend of stone fruit and bright citrus, almost like a fresh Cascade meeting El Dorado. We utilized this variety on both hot and cold sides, and its huge beta-Selinene contribution left this beer with an incredibly pungent aroma and almost no perceived bitterness. I truly believe this particular hop will be a heavy hitter in the coming years and am excited to see what my fellow brewers discover along the way.” —Luke Gerweck, brewer, Tilted Barn Brewery, Exeter, R.I.
“We tend to do a lot of dry-hop trials when selecting what to use in new IPA recipes, basically doing small-scale blind tastings of a beer dry-hopped with different hops and selecting our favorite. I personally think Idaho 7 is an unbelievably versatile hop, with bangin’ aroma and flavor. It tends to make it into a lot of our beers — both amazing on the hot side as a whirlpool addition and boasting great aroma as a dry-hop. Certain lots can carry some dankness — cannabis-like notes — but generally, it’s a pineapple bomb.” —Mike Foniok, co-founder and brewer, The Establishment Brewing Company, Calgary, Alberta, Canada
“Strata is not necessarily the newest hop variety but definitely one with some staying power. It has a way of transforming from dank-resinous to bright strawberry that makes it the perfect complement to staples like Citra and Mosaic or a great standalone in a single-hop IPA. We recently did a beer utilizing Strata T-90, Strata CGX, and Strata Terpenes, and loved the result! But even more exciting than some of the new hop varieties are the number of advanced hop products now on the market. In addition to whole-leaf and T-90 pellets, we have access to things like Spectrum, hop-derived terpenes, thiolized yeast strains, and Phantasm, to name a few. Brewers today have more tools than ever to craft truly cutting-edge, hop-forward beers, all the while increasing yield and reducing our carbon footprint. What a time to be alive.” —Nick Brown, head of pilot and wood-aged beer, Trophy Brewing, Raleigh, N.C.
“HBC 586 has a lot of potential. We’ve seen great results with it in the whirlpool and dry-hop. Pineapple, mango, and citrus backed up with a light dank character. I’m excited to see how this hop progresses in the coming years.” —Jason Thompson, co-owner and head brewer, Calusa Brewing, Sarasota, Fla.
“I think HBC 586 is the next big powerhouse. We’re using it a ton already, especially in our West Coast IPAs. I would say it’s best showcased in our Rivalry series. We’re loving the big tropical fruit notes it gives and that it works so well on its own or with other hops.” —Chris Shipley, co-owner, Movement Brewing Company, Rancho Cordova, Calif.
“HBC 586 has the potential to be a big hit in the coming years. Out of the bag, it smells like ripe honeydew and mango Creamsicle, and its softness and over-the-top fruitiness stands out to me amongst the lexicon of hops we have to choose from. I’m particularly excited to see how this hop evolves with time planted in the field and as it gets made into advanced hop products. We’ve enjoyed using it in our hazy pales and IPAs, but I can also see how it could work well in a ‘juicy’ West Coast IPA or dry-hopped saison.” —Nick Mader, founder and head brewer, Alma Mader Brewing, Kansas City, Mo.
“For us, it’s experimental hop HBC 586, which will hopefully be getting a name soon. It’s a super-versatile IPA hop that can be the lead horse or happily be a pedestal to allow other hops to shine brighter. Concentrated versions of 586 bring a ‘loads-of-fruit’ aroma intensity we haven’t really seen before, and it feels like every time we use it, some different layer is revealed.” —Ted Gowan, brewmaster, Societe Brewing Company, San Diego
“A hop that I’m digging right now is HBC 586. Big mango notes and a sweet, almost creamy orange. Very tropical with a little woody spice. I’ve only used it in pilot batches so far, but I’ve had brews from Cellarmaker, Ghost Town, and Original Pattern using it alone and with more familiar hops like Mosaic. It seems to play well in the West Coast hoppy realm, and I could see it becoming a trusted hop in many hits.” —Phillip Emerson, brewmaster, Almanac Beer Co., Alameda, Calif.
“Pacific Sunrise is a sneaky good hop right now. Soft lemon and orange tones with a wild terroir-driven sense of grass. Great consonant character to support already punchy Citra or Nelson Sauvin.” —Jude La Rose, co-owner, Hop Butcher For The World, Chicago
“We’re taking a liking to Lotus. The hop lends itself very well to a lot of our brewing style. We’re quite interested in the interplay between hops and yeast, trying to see why and how different yeasts are able to bring new hop aromas forward. We’ve enjoyed the forward tropical and herbal qualities of Lotus so much that we’re including it as one of the hops in our new Super Session release later this year.” —Scott Shirley, director of brewery operations, Lawson’s Finest Liquids, Waitsfield, Vt.