Keys to Using an Experimental Hop with 21st Amendment

Collaboration beers can always be a fun time for a craft brewery, but being able to team up and work with a hop farm to ferment something new and never before used was a big part of the attraction for Shaun O’Sullivan.

The Brewmaster and co-founder of 21st Amendment explained to Brewer recently that they first encountered the X14 from CLS Farms when the 21st Amendment team was in Yakima last year during hop harvest.

“[We were] working up the details on our ‘Close Encounters of the Hop Kind’ beer collaboration,” he recalled. “It was the first year X14 had been grown and we were in the field rubbing hop cones — as one does — and getting a sense of what the possibilities might be.”

O’Sullivan said that X14 is part of an exciting time in hop breeding.

“The Neomexicanus strains are some of the most interesting new hop strains where the flavors and aromas are wild and divergent,” he said, adding there were very vibrant aromas with this new young hop. “X14 is brand new and a cross between a Cluster and a wild American Neomexicanus hop found in the mountains of New Mexico.

“There can be all sorts of very different flavors and aromas when the Neomexicanus sub-substrain is part of any hop breeding.”

The initial reaction, he said, was that there was something special with dynamic stone fruit and citrus aromas.

“We thought it would be interesting to have this relatively new hop be part of the blend of dry hops for our collaboration,” O’Sullivan said.

21A initially used X14 in a smaller pilot batch at its San Francisco brewpub to test it out and O’Sullivan said they were very happy with the results in how the hop could play a part in this beer.

“With that initial beer we picked up aromas of stone fruit, citrus, apple and pear, and a slight wood note,” he said.

Close Encounters of a Hop Kind ​is an ​8.5% ABV​ DIPA using CLS Farms’ proprietary hop varieties: El Dorado, Zappa​, and ​X-14.

READ MORE: Brewer Magazine Q&A: Zappa Hops

​O’Sullivan noted that single-hop beers are a great way to see explicitly what the extremes are of any hop, but the art in brewing is how strains play together to create desired hop flavors and aromas in the beer you seek to produce.

​”X14 is part of the symphony of hops in ‘Close Encounters of the Hop Kind’ which include El Dorado, Comet, Cashmere, and Zappa,” he said. “I’m looking forward to seeing how X14 comes along as it matures as part of the breeding program and how brewers take to it. It’s fun.​”

As part of trialing this new hop, CLS Farms initially planted three acres and plan to grow 23 more acres in 2023 as brewers understand more about X14.

“Our friends at CLS Farms are actively creating these new varietals and X14 is a very new hop and part of their hop breeding program​,” O’Sullivan said.

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