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Striking Gold

Developing and bringing a new hops variety to market is a tricky proposition fraught with expense and uncertainty. Here’s how breeders, growers, and brewers are working together to bring promising new strains to beers near you.

Tom Wilmes Oct 4, 2016 - 9 min read

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Creating a new hops hybrid is a matter of boy meets girl. Just introduce a male hops plant of one variety to a female of another and let nature take its course. Of course, that’s way oversimplifying things in the age of genome mapping and controlled pollination and given the big business of hops and their importance to craft beer, but essentially it’s the same mechanics as two wild, star-crossed young hops plants whose pollen and pistil happen to meet and produce offspring.

Only these days—and beginning with Professor E.S. Salmon at Wye College in England, who crossbred a cultivated English hops of unknown origin with a wild seedling in the early 1900s to create Brewer’s Gold—there’s an entire industry of professional matchmakers selectively breeding for desirable traits and agronomic viability.

It doesn’t always work out, given the multitude of possible combinations and variables involved, but when it does? Think Nugget, El Dorado, Brewer’s Gold.

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