How are new types of hops created?
Since the Neolithic period, humans have scrupulously selected the best fruits - the fleshy, the sweetest - to later grow their seeds. Since the beginning of agriculture, we have always soughtmodify the characteristics of the plants that were favorable to us. This millennial domestication begins to be more understandable after Mendel published his experiments with peas in the 19th century. It is from these genetic discoveries that one begins to experiment with a more rigorous approach, and this of course has had agreat impact on hops used for beer making.
Although hops are found in the wild on the banks of rivers, they have been cultivated as a preservative for barley juice for centuries. Artificial selection has been aimed ata achieve cones with higher acid saturation -responsible for bitterness- and essential oils -in charge of providing aromas-; in addition, of course, to ensure that each plant gives a higher production of cones. But this does not end here. It's not just about quantity. The qualitative variable is also subject to genetic engineering.
The companies behind the hops business seek to create new varieties that offer new aromas and flavors to patent them. Not in vainthere are over 250 different essential oils. These increasingly exotic new hops are irresistible to craft brewers. In fact, depending on the different nuances of each hop, the different varieties are organized around four families:
- Old world hops: herbal nuances.
- Noble hops: floral and spicy nuances.
- American hops: citrus and resinous notes.
- Hops of the new world: fruit and tropical notes.
However, we should not forget another ofthe great goals of genetic engineering and species crossing: for the plant to tolerate more hostile conditions. We are talking that hops prefer wet and cool climates, but certain regions do not offer these characteristics. Therefore, it is constantly being experimented with which hop varieties are best suited to hot and low rainfall environments. For example,In Spain, the Nugget variety is mainly cultivated, which better resists the peninsular climate, although it is being experimented with Eureka, Apollo and Bravo to start planting them in the future.
Hops is green gold, and large companies look for new varieties through crosses to get even more performance. In the end we all wish for more aromatic, tastier and more surprising beers.