About a decade ago, Ipswich, Massachusetts-based Clown Shoes brewery began increasing the amount of galaxy hops it used in its Supa Hero IPA to the great acclaim of the company’s fans. The ingredient tweaking proved so popular that Clown Shoes soon renamed the beer Galactica, in homage to the hop variety. Today, Galactica—available in 30 states and internationally—is one of the brewery’s leading brands.
Clown Shoes isn’t the only brewery to name beers after beloved hop varietals. Reuben’s Brews’ Mosaic Crush hazy IPA, Foam Brewers’ Galaxie 500 double IPA, Kern River Brewing’s Citra double IPA, and Fort George Brewery’s Rock, Paper, Centennial wet hop pale ale are just a few more examples. And countless other brewers highlight hop varieties on packaging, promotional materials, websites, and taproom menus. “Over the past several years, a growing number of brewers are calling out specific hops on their beers,” says Jeff Cox, wine, beer, and spirits merchandiser at Oregon’s PCC Community Markets chain. With craft beer consumers becoming increasingly knowledgeable about beer styles and the influence of different hop varieties, the branding and labeling information are welcomed tools, the retailer adds.
The wild popularity of IPAs that feature generous amounts of hops, such as citra, mosaic, and galaxy, has particularly contrib- uted to the education. “IPA fans are looking for offerings with juicy, tropical, hazy, and hoppy impacts,” says Clown Shoes head brewer Dan Lipke. “IPAs and their emphasis on hops have helped to educate consumers about hops.” Ann George, executive director of the Hop Growers of America, agrees. “IPAs have given brewers the opportunity to showcase IPA hops varieties,” she says. “As a result, for many beer consumers, it’s all about the hops.” And with IPAs often requiring five to six times more hops than other beer styles, hop growers have benefitted. According to Maggie Elliott, science and communications director at the trade association, U.S. growers have doubled their acreage in the last ten years.
Beer retailers are also increasingly working to further consumer knowledge on hop varieties. At PCC, Cox says, “We have a very beer-savvy team in our stores. This leads to a very robust exchange of information.” Lipke also suggests that beer retailers can help expand consumers’ hop knowl- edge by utilizing pertinent point-of-sale materials, when available. At Beverage Warehouse in Burlington, Vermont, beer and wine manager Marc Gelsomino notes that he and members of his team discuss various hop attributes with customers “one-on-one at the point of sale.” And while in-store tastings have been reduced in recent years due to the pandemic, Gelsomino, Cox, and Lipke all agree that such events can go a long way in teaching consumers about hops. “Tastings provide a great forum to point out varieties like galaxy and mosaic,” says Lipke.
Oregon-based Crosby Hop Farm, a grower, processor, and merchant of hops, is also serious about educating beer consumers about its crop. In 2020, the company opened TopWire Hop Project, a seasonal beer garden located on its estate in the Willamette Valley. The venue exclusively features beers brewed with Crosby-grown estate hops and partner hops sourced from around the world. “Customer response has exceeded expectations,” says marketing manager Zak Schroerlucke. “We felt it was important to give craft beer fans an authentic way to experience the world of hops.” TopWire’s rotating tap list of about ten beers comprises brews that showcase classic, new, and novel hop varieties from the more than a dozen types grown at the farm, Schroerlucke says. The venue’s chalk list details the varieties found in each of the beers. In addition, TopWire’s staff is well versed on hop varieties and their characteristics in beer.
While hop awareness is growing, it’s unlikely we’ll see beers characterized solely by hop content anytime soon. “I expect consumers will become more aware of hops varieties and retailers will increasingly have conversations about them, but I don’t expect it to get to the point where store shelves are organized by hop variety, as with wine varietals,” Gelsomino says. Still, hop purveyors like Schroerlucke believe that hops will continue to hold a place in the spotlight. “It’s exciting to see craft beer drinkers make purchase decisions based on the hop varieties outlined on beer labels and tap lists,” he says.