By Claire Desmarais
In the last ten years, craft beer has become increasingly popular amongst beer drinkers. Brewers have been searching for hops that pack in bright flavors and aromas to create alluring beers of all styles.
The number of proprietary hops has increased tremendously. Now more than ever, brewers have a wider portfolio of hops to choose from when crafting their recipes. Notable hops like Citra® and Mosaic® have dominated the space while newer varieties from smaller breeding programs have entered the market, providing the “New American Aroma” found in hop varieties coming out of the U.S.
However, brewers are frequently incorporating other proprietary varieties into their hop bills. Specifically, the tropical hop known as El Dorado® has joined the list as a brewer-favorite when looking for strong aroma hops.
In 2020, El Dorado® reached the #7 hop variety used by brewers in the United States, according to the Brewers Association Hop Usage Report.
This relatively new hop variety was released in 2010 by CLS Farms, a hop farm located in Yakima, Washington State. It’s known as the tropical hop because it elicits aromas of tropical fruitiness, stone fruit, and hard candy.
As a dual-purpose hop, the high alpha acids and total oils make it suitable for bittering or flavoring beers (El Dorado® Fact Sheet). Beers brewed with this hop include Expatriate by Three Weavers, Hazy Little Thing by Sierra Nevada, and Official Hazy IPA by Bell’s Brewery.
El Dorado® is grown by 23 unique growers in all the major growing regions in the United States: Washington, Idaho, Oregon, Montana, and Michigan. It is unique amongst proprietary hop varieties in that growers are free to market it independent of centralized control. This allows brewers, growers, and dealers to orient their supply chain as each prefers.
Aromas, Flavors, and Beer Styles
NEIPAs (Hazy IPA’s) and IPAs have become the predominant beer style globally. Consequently, many brewers have turned to use El Dorado® to give their beers a deeper, more nuanced flavor.
El Dorado® elicits flavors dependent on maturity dates. Early maturity evokes aromas of citrus, while middle maturity evokes watermelon and pear. For deeper aromas, peak maturity elicits tropical aromas of pineapple and mango, stone fruit, and candy lemon and cherry.
While primarily used in Hazy IPAs and IPAs, this hop also works well in lagers, pale ales, and blondes to provide more nuanced flavors.
Brewers can use it for single-hop beers, but it works best when paired with other hop varieties. Alexandra Nowell of Three Weavers Brewing describes this versatile hop as the “glue within a beer” and notes that it “pulls all the best characteristics out of all the other varieties” both public and proprietary.
Specifically, it pairs well with hop varieties that elicit citrusy aromas like Citra® and Mosaic® to enhance the flavors rather than detract from them. Brewers have also combined El Dorado® with Centennial, Comet, and Sabro® to add more depth to their beers.
To achieve these flavors in a beer, brewers should primarily use El Dorado® in the dry-hopping step. Dry hopping occurs post-boil once the beer has cooled from the kettle and near the end of fermentation. Hops contain essential oils that are highly volatile that boil off if the beer temperature is too high. El Dorado®’s total oil content is around 2.7%, making it highly concentrated compared to other varieties.
For a brewer experimenting with El Dorado®, Nowell suggests initially going heavy on the dry hop addition to see the flavor impact on the beer, then adjusting the poundage if the flavor and aroma profile isn’t met. Starting with two pounds per barrel (7.6 g/L) allows brewers to experience its full capability. She says that while some other hop varieties can change when a brewer over dry hops, El Dorado® builds in intensity as the weight of your dry hop addition increases and creates what Nowell describes as a “fruit cocktail of hops.”
Because brewing processes and recipes vary between brewers, it’s important to experiment with El Dorado® to understand where in your process it works best. Nowell says it’s not a risky hop to work with, and brewers should explore its flavors and aroma capabilities without feeling like the hop will change greatly when used in large amounts.
Along with flavor, the high alpha acids of 13-16% mean that brewers can use it not only for flavoring but also for bittering. High alpha acids in hop varieties are the source of bitterness, so a higher alpha acid percentage results in a hop more equipped to bitter beer.
To utilize El Dorado® on the hot side of a brewing operation, it can be added to the kettle during the boil for its clean bittering qualities. When used in late kettle additions, it elicits a more focused, bright citrus flavor. It also finds a great home in the whirlpool, where its sweet citrus aromas and flavors really shine.
Brewers looking for a bittering hop or wanting bright, tropical flavors in a beer can use El Dorado® hops throughout the brewing process. It’s usable for a variety of beer styles to accomplish a smooth bitterness and varying flavors and aromas.
Where to buy El Dorado® hops?
A wide and diversified grower base means brewers can access El Dorado® hops easily through multiple dealers. Eighteen licensed dealers sell this tropical hop, including John I. Haas, Bintani, Yakima Chief Hops, and Crosby Hops. To learn more about El Dorado® hops, contact your dealer or visit eldoradohops.com.
Claire Desmarais is an El Dorado® Brand Manager at CLS Farms and a fifth-generation hop farmer.
Alexandra Nowell is the Brewmaster and Director of Brewery Operations at Three Weavers in Inglewood, California. Alexandra’s love of beer and inspiration for brewing is found in the roots of the recipe, where she strikes a balance between science, art, and intention. She is a self-professed born and raised California brewer and is known for creating balanced beers with bright and harmonious flavors and aromas. Throughout her career, Alexandra has taken a special interest in the raw ingredient supply chain, with a focus on the crucial relationships linking brewers, growers, brokers, and all facets in between.