Every craft brewery worth its salt is always experimenting with the latest yields and developments of the American hop-growing industry, but few can claim to be directly fueling that industry and using hops that literally no one else has ever dabbled in. To do that would mean growing new hop varietals for one’s own, private use, and that’s exactly what Firestone Walker has seemingly pulled off with the 13th release of their Luponic Distortion series of IPAs.
This comfortably fits the mold of what the Luponic Distortion series has been all about, since it was introduced by Firestone a few years back. Each batch of the series is made with the same base beer, but with a constantly rotating series of highlighted hops or hop blends. This time around, Firestone can claim it’s a varietal that no one has ever used before—the result of three years of patience. Brewmaster Matt Brynildson first discovered the varietal along with Hop Breeding Company (HBC) breeders Jason Parrault and Michael Ferguson, while visiting their operation.
“Jason has helped create some of the most exciting hops to come out in recent years,” Brynildson said. “We were out on his farm, walking the test fields and rubbing hops, and this one cross really stood out to us. He asked if we wanted to sponsor a test planting, and we jumped at the opportunity.”
Firestone therefore plunked down the change to plant three acres of the new hybrid varietal, and the fruits of those fields are present in Luponic Distortion No. 13, which starts hitting the brewery’s distribution area this week. The hop is described as possessing “pronounced tropical fruit and coconut character,” which has been used in conjunction with other hops to produce “a unique profile of piña colada, key lime and nectarine.”
“It was worth the wait for this hop to come on line,” Brynildson said. “The tropical aspect of this hop is really crazy. It adds a distinctive dimension to the aroma profile of the beer.”
It’s a good illustration of both the patience required for experimentation within the craft beer world, and the fleeting nature of taste experiences—once this batch of Luponic Distortion No. 13 is gone, it would likely be another year before anything else could be made with this hop varietal again. But who knows—perhaps five years from now, the hop developed by Firestone Walker will be a named varietal that is all the rage in the Quintuple Dry Hopped Ultrasmoothie crowd. We’ll just have to wait and see.