The X331 hails from the Willamette Valley in Oregon. This region of the Pacific Northwest is known mostly for its vineyards and wineries. Much like grapes, hops depend heavily on the climate in which they grow . The moderate temperatures in this area make for ideal conditions for the growth of amazing aroma-type hops. The terroir also contributes to much bigger harvests than other hop growing regions.
The X331 hop was discovered on one of the hop trips that the Schlafly team takes up to the Pacific Northwest each year. These annual trips are a part of the long-standing relationship that Schlafly has with the Indie Hops group. Indie hops was founded in 2008 for the sole purpose of supplying hops exclusively to craft brewers. The Goschie farm, where the X331 was grown, is focused on growing hops in the most organic way possible. The Schlafly brewers fell in love with these plump organic hops and the philosophy of all-organic growing.
When a brewer inspects a hop, there’s usually a lot of rubbing and sniffing. Emily Parker, Head of Brewing Operations, describes what it was like inspecting this hop out for the first time, “The hop smelled like a juicy fruit. It was exploding with strong tropical fruit and citrus characters. As soon as I got the aroma of this thing, I knew I had to get a trial going immediately.”
Hops (humulus lupulus) grow from a large climbing vine, that usually hangs from a trellis or support wire. In the best climates and conditions, hop vines can grow almost 25 feet in one season. The hop cone itself is actually the flower of the plant. Hop cones only grow on female plants, while the males are only used for creating hybrids. These cones are where the lupulin glands are located. The lupulin glands give the hops their different aromas and flavor profiles.
This experimental hop is the brainchild of the OS-Indie Hops aroma breeding program. The mother is Perle, and the father is unknown. This hop boasts an alpha-acid level between twelve and sixteen percent. In full cone form, it’s short and plump.
Being based in the Midwest, Schlafly’s relationship with farmers is natural, yet unique in the craft beer industry. We work directly with those that grow our ingredients. Due to these relationships, Schlafly is often asked by the hop growers to provide feedback about how the hop performs in the brewing process. They want to learn what aromas are released, what flavors develop as the hop is boiled.
As this became a repeated request, Schlafly has developed a standard approach to trialing hops. We brew what is called a SMaSH, or Single Malt and Single Hop beer. The only variable in the brew is changing out one sole ingredient, the hop. The same amount of hops are used in each brew (32lbs), these are added at the same time (beginning of the boil) and the same malt is used. This allows us to isolate the changes to the beer in from the hop. Thus, a Hop Trial.