Heavy Seas Collaborates with University of Maryland Extension on Maryland-Native Hop Beer Series

Heavy Seas Beer, home of Maryland’s original and largest craft brewer, is excited to announce “Altimore” – the first release in a series of beers crafted using a unique Maryland-native hop variety, the Monocacy hop. 

Discovered in the late 1960s by Dr. Ray Edigar, the Monocacy hop remained a hidden gem until recently. Dr. Edigar — unaware of its rarity and Maryland origin — grew the hop in his garden for years. He recently partnered with researchers at the University of Maryland Extension to test the plant’s DNA-sequence, and when the results came back, they learned that the hop was completely genetically unique to Maryland. 

Distinguished by its distinct chemical profile and adaptability to Maryland’s hot, humid climate, the Monocacy hop has piqued interest for potential commercial cultivation. Ongoing research, led by the University of Maryland Extension, will include hop propagation and evaluation, while making the hop available to more local brewers for experimentation. 

“From what we can tell so far, the Monocacy hop grows very well in Maryland. Our hope is to continue growing it, share it with more local brewers, while we continue testing its commercial viability,” says Bryan Butler, Principle Agent in Agriculture and Natural Resources with the University of Maryland Extension. “It will be critical to see if the Monocacy hop can not only thrive, but excel in crafting outstanding beers.”

On September 21st, Heavy Seas visited the Western Maryland Research & Education Center, where the Maryland-native hop is currently growing, to witness the harvesting of the Monocacy hop and collect hand-picked wet hops directly from the vine. Immediately post-harvest, the Heavy Seas team returned to their Halethorpe-based brewery to brew a batch of beer using this hop.  

“The Monocacy hop offers spicy, herbaceous, floral aromatics. For our inaugural brew, we chose to craft an Altbier, a traditional German beer style, using whole-flower Monocacy hops for bittering and finishing, which should provide a really nice aroma to this beer,” says Chris Leonard, Heavy Seas Brewmaster and Director of Operations.

In the coming weeks, Heavy Seas anticipates receiving Monocacy hop pellets, alongside additional chemical analyses for a deeper understanding of the hop’s characteristics for future experimental brews. “We’re excited to see what else we can create. We plan to explore different beer styles and utilize the Monocacy hop in different stages of the production to test how it can be best employed,” says Leonard. 

The first beer in this series, “Altimore” officially releases on Friday, October 20, available exclusively on draft at the Heavy Seas Taproom (located onsite at the Heavy Seas brewery). Fans can look forward to more Monocacy-hop beer releases from Heavy Seas in 2024, including plans for packaged products for broader market distribution. 

“Brewing with locally-grown Maryland hops is a special opportunity. If this hop continues to thrive and enhance the flavor of beer, and more Maryland brewers can use it, that’s pretty amazing!” says Caroline Sisson, Heavy Seas Brand Manager. 

On February 6, 2024, Maryland Public Television (MPT) will air an informative segment on the Monocacy hop. 

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