In the sea of India Pale Ales, there's seemingly little room for innovation among the thousands of offerings. But Sierra Nevada breaks new ground with its Wild Hop IPA thanks to the rarely-brewed Neomexicanus hop variety native to New Mexico. The beer is the final entry in the Chico, California brewery's 2014 Harvest series of highly-hopped ales. Earlier brews featured new hybrid varieties, or super-fresh wet hops, but the latest showcases a hop unlike anything we've tasted.
Sierra Nevada's technical lead for raw materials, Tom Neilsen, heard about the wild Neomexicanus variety through hops supplier CLS Farms in Washington. Neilsen traveled to New Mexico with CLS owner Eric Desmarais to learn about the strain and fell in love. Desmarais brought the plant back to the Pacific Northwest to cultivate while Neilsen, in turn, took the eventual harvest down to Chico.
The resulting beer has a smooth hop character that seems to combine the bright fruit of new American hops with subtle spices of classic European varieties. Neomexicanus, while not short on flavor, has some of the lowest levels of bittering acids of any hop variety. So the Wild Hop IPA offers a subtle, balancing bitterness instead of a kick in the tongue.
Sierra Nevada is currently shipping the IPA to distributors and expects it to be available through January 2015. Wild Hop is packaged in a 24-ounce bottles and weighs in at 6.5-percent ABV. [$6, sierranevada.com]