A cross between two hop plants made 18 years ago will likely debut this October as “Triumph,” a new public variety resulting from the cooperative breeding efforts of USDA and Northwest growers.
Unlike cultivars owned by private companies, Triumph can be grown and propagated without paying license fees to the developer, said John Henning, a research geneticist with USDA who developed the variety.
“It’s all publicly handled and that dramatically decreases the cost of production to the grower,” Henning said.
The variety’s name springs from its repeated “triumph” over other cultivars during single-hop brewing trials, as well as Henning’s favorite brand of motorcycle.
Aroma-style hops generally yield about eight to 10 bales per acre, while Triumph has produced 12 or more in field trials, he said.
“We don’t want to overhype it because it’s a small plot,” said Doug Weathers, a hop farmer who tested the variety on 2 acres near Salem, Ore.
Weathers said he appreciates that Triumph is “on the front end of harvest,” which means he can begin using picking and processing machinery before most other hop cultivars are ready.
“It picks really nice and dries really nice,” he said. “It’s fairly non-problematic to grow.”
Agronomic benefits are important but flavor ultimately determines whether a new hop variety will catch on, experts say.
Brewers have described Triumph as having notes of “pink Bazooka bubblegum” and “peach stone fruit,” Weathers said. “That’s the feedback we’re getting from them.”
The hops are well-suited for use in pale ales, amber ales and pilsners, he said. “It’s a little lighter profile.”
New hop varieties typically need a “long runway” to gain popularity, said Pete Venegas, procurement manager at Yakima Chief-Hopunion, a hop supplier.
“You need to be persistent and keep promoting it,” Venegas said.
Becoming a key ingredient in a popular beer can greatly boost demand for a hop variety, particularly for a brew that racks up awards, he said. “It’s really up to the consumer.”
Triumph is tentatively planned for public release in October after undergoing years of greenhouse and field trials, with the final step being the 2-acre plot at Weathers’ farm.
Henning said Triumph is his first new hop variety in about a decade but he’s got two other varieties ready to jump to the final testing stage.
The cultivar is joining a crowded hop market. This spring, the national inventory of hops hit a record 169 million pounds, up 20 percent from the previous year and the highest level in decades.
Stocks of the ingredient have piled up as sales of craft beer haven’t kept pace with projections of red-hot growth, experts say.