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The Rise of Neomexicanus

These characterful, high-efficiency, drought-resistant hop varieties present both challenges and opportunities to hop farmers—and to brewers.

Hollie Stephens Oct 18, 2021 - 8 min read

The Rise of Neomexicanus Primary Image

Zappa hops. Photo: Courtesy CLS Farms.

Last summer, I met the godfather of neomexicanus at his home in New Mexico. “They evolved here,” says Todd Bates, who bred locally foraged wild hops from the dry mountain terrain to create varieties such as Zappa and Medusa.

Bates says that neomexicanus hops behave differently from others. “They don’t want that much water, they don’t want that much fertilizer. They’re sensitive to some chemicals.”

Neomexicanus is a genetically distinct subspecies of hop plant that has been growing in the American Southwest for perhaps a million years. All hops originate from Asia, but neomexicanus took a different, and much older, route to get here via early migration. European landrace hops—namely, Noble varieties such as Saaz, Tettnang, Fuggles, and Goldings—are the parents of most of the hops grown in the United States today. The lineage of neomexicanus is different.

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