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These Hops Were Made for Lager

Brewers today are used to choosing punchy hops for their IPAs. However, great lagers require a different approach and a different kind of bitterness—yet, they need not copy the classics. Here’s how some new varieties are pointing the way toward lagers that still taste like lagers, “but with a twist.”

Stan Hieronymus Jul 25, 2022 - 9 min read

These Hops Were Made for Lager Primary Image

Photos: Matt Graves

In looking for a great lager hop, Oregon’s Indie Hops wasn’t looking for a plant with the exact attributes of well-known European varieties such as Saaz or Hallertau Mittelfrüh. “That’s like bringing sand to the beach,” says cofounder Jim Solberg. Instead, they were after a hop that could exhibit less of the “classic” herbal character and a bit more of the fruity-floral flavors that have made new American varieties such as Citra so popular.

It began several years ago, when Shaun Townsend—who heads a hop-breeding program funded by Indie Hops—inoculated a Sterling female hop plant with pollen from a male plant of German heritage. Out of the cross, he collected about 2,000 seeds that would begin a harrowing series of agronomic tests.

“Seven or eight made it to sensory,” Solberg says, perhaps saying a prayer for the other 1,992. They named the chosen hop Lórien, with a nod toward The Lord of the Rings. Other recent releases also have leaned into an Old World theme, such as Contessa (“a title given to a woman of nobility”) from Hopsteiner, and Adeena (meaning “noble, gentle, and delicate”) from the Association for the Development of Hop Agronomy.

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