News of the recent home brew exclusive testing of experimental hop variety HBC 438 has been creating a buzz throughout the home brew community since its release announcement at the 2015 National Homebrewers’ Conference. We are happy to report that these highly anticipated hops are now hitting the shelves at home brew stores throughout the United States.
HBC 438 hop pellets are more than just a means to create the next exciting home brew. They are an opportunity for home brewers to test a new hop variety and provide feedback before it’s sold on a larger scale, as well as a way for home brewers to support a very worthy cause.
“Let that set in…you guys [homebrewers] have access to a hop before any brewery in America does,” said Vinnie Cilurzo of Russian River Brewing Company who has participated in early brewing evaluations. “I think its super, super exciting, aside from the hop being a really extraordinary hop. I have been rubbing it for five years now and always, Natalie and I, we have been gravitating back to HBC 438.”
HBC 438 is currently an experimental hop from Hop Breeding Company that is in the elite stages of hop breeding and currently performing on one acre trials. Typically, experimental hop varieties take at least 8-10 years of evaluation by breeders, growers, and brewers alike before commercialization is considered. While most hop varieties complete an 11+ year path from initial cross-pollination to commercialization, HBC 438’s journey has been longer.
The history of HBC 438 dates back to 1997 when Jason Perrault of Select Botanicals Group (SBG) was provided a Humulus lupulus plant from the taxonomic variety neomexicanus by Chuck Zimmermann, a world famous hop breeder. Together, they nicknamed it “Chuck’s Mexican” as an homage to its neomexicanus roots. The plant was rank, wild and beautiful, but it was late flowering, if at all. In 2004, Jason and an assistant breeder had left over pollen from another hop and the only remaining viable female plant was Chuck’s Mexican. They mixed the remaining pollen and applied it to the neomexicanus mother. The outcome was completely unpredictable – HBC 438. In 2007, the breeders began to notice unique aromas from several plants, including this new variety, so a sample was harvested for brewing small, experimental batches. Great results and positive feedback ensued, getting us to where we are today.
“It’s such an exciting thing. Jason approached me years ago. I finally threw the idea at him that maybe we could release it at the home brew conference and build awareness of the hop. Then, he and the Smith’s turned it into a fundraising opportunity for ALS which is really great,” says Cilurzo.
Being personally affected by amyotrophic lateral scerosis (ALS or “Lou Gehrig’s Disease”), Mike and Cheryl Smith of B.T. Loftus Ranches, Inc. decided to create Ales for ALS in 2013, helping to familiarize the brewing community with ALS and the ALS Therapy Development Institute (ALS TDI). Through this initiative, Loftus Ranches and YCH HOPS provide a proprietary hop blend to commercial brewers in exchange for participation with a specialty brew. Each brewery creates a special Ales for ALS beer and donates at least $1 from every pint sold to ALS TDI. In 2013 and 2014, more than $372,000 was raised for the cause.
The success and overwhelming positive reception of the Ales for ALS campaign inspired Jason to release HBC 438 to home brewers and provide another opportunity to contribute funding to ALS research and treatments. Unlike any variety before, commercial or home brew, 100% of the proceeds from the sale of HBC 438 will be donated to Ales for ALS in support of ALS TDI.
YCH is proud to be involved in the production and distribution of these hops. This fall, hop pellets were produced in 1 oz. packages and distributed to home brew retailers through Brewcraft USA and LD Carlson Co. and direct to home brewers via online sales with More Beer! and Northern Brewer. In total, approximately $144,000 will be donated to ALS TDI through the sale of HBC 438.
ALS TDI is the first and largest non-profit biotech focused solely on ALS research. They are led by families who are impacted by the disease, and employ more than 30 full-time scientists to discover and develop treatments to improve the lives of those living with ALS.
When asked about his support for the cause, Cilurzo responded, “You get awareness out and you realize how many people are affected by it. It’s really something else. It’s not just in the Smith family. It’s in customers and employees’ friends. You know, you see it on the national level as well. To be able to bring awareness to one cause is really great.”
Not only does this hop variety hold meaning to home brewers and the ALS community, it is also a valuable way for Select Botanicals Group to receive feedback about an experimental hop from a wide range of brewers. This provides an unprecedented opportunity for home brewers to directly communicate with some of the nation’s most notable hop growers.
“The connection that we as craft brewers have with hop growers is such an important part of our story. I think this gives the homebrewers a connection to the hop growers that they didn’t have before as well,” says Vinnie.
In addition to the charitable benefits of HBC 438, it is simply an enticing and distinctive variety which Cilurzo described as clean with a spicy mint aroma, peppery qualities and a grape must. Other sensory analysis reports listed the aroma characteristics as: stone fruit, tropical fruit, orange, mint and herbal. Brewing values are 14-18% alpha, 6-7% beta, 20-25% co-humulone and 2.5-3.5mL/100g total oil.
“As a hop breeder every once in a while you come across a new hop in the plots that stops you in your tracks. HBC 438 is one of those. When we do encounter hops like these we can’t wait until commercial quantities are available to see how they impact beer, so our impatience leads us homebrew with them. If HBC 438 is released commercially it will be because of a grassroots effort led by true hop loving purists, all while collectively contributing to a worthy cause. This is a great opportunity,” says Jason.
In celebration of its release to the home brewing community, Cilurzo and Russian River Brewing Company created Ron Mexico, a special HBC 438 beer exclusive for the 2015 National Homebrewers Conference. During the event, home brewers received a sample of the hop variety and a taste of the beer, allowing them to get a sense of the characteristics this hop is capable of creating. As predicted, home brewers have been in pursuit of the hop and recipe ever since.
As an amazing supporter of Ales for ALS and the home brewing community, Cilurzo was kind enough to provide our readers with this exclusive recipe. HBC 438 is a limited release and will only be in stores through spring 2016. We hope you’ll join this cause and brew a batch to support a cure. Together, we will raise an additional $500,000 for ALS research in 2015 (and beyond).
Please feel free to comment below describing your experiences with the hop and/or the recipe. You may also provide feedback directly to Select Botanicals Group via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d love to hear from all of you!