Part of my series on neomexicanus hops.
I am a firm believer that there is a certain terroir that should go into the beers you make. The local combinations of water, malt, hops, and yeast created the beer styles we know and love today; true ingenuity comes from working to make the best with what you have. To this end, I am constantly on the lookout for truly local ingredients to use in my beers. This usually means using San Diego tap water, California grown barley, and yeast from White Labs. But where are you, sweet hops? Am I forever doomed to use varieties derived from European lupulus hops?
If you recall from my primer on neomexicanus hops, the genesis of this series occurred at the end of 2014 when I was tipped-off about a monastery in New Mexico that had successfully cultivated and began selling homebrew-sized batches of neomexicanus hops from their website. I was intrigued: here was a a brand-new set of hops that no one has even heard of from a variety that is 100% native to the American Southwest; up until this point, the only reference to neomexicanus I had seen was as a footnote in Stan Hieronymus‘ For the Love of Hops. At $8.33/oz shipped these might be the most expensive hops anyone has ever purchased, but my curiosity had gotten the better of me and I picked up 3 oz each of Chama (“citrusy, herbal, fruity”) and Latir (“spicy, herbal, flowery”).
As a way to justify the cost I resolved to do a bit of research and share the details, which became this series. Due to travel and the holiday season it took me a longer to actually brew with the hops than I was anticipating, but I am excited to finally share the review of my batch made with Chama hops. Stay tuned in the near future for my review of the Latir hops.
The Holy Hops website does not have the same broad analysis of the composition of Chama that they have for Latir, but they do provide the following. Interesting to note the high levels of beta acids, which are about the highest I recall seeing.
Availability: Holy Hops
Description: Citrusy, herbal, fruity.
HSI: 22.1% (stores decently)
Chama Pale Ale
The base I am using for this beer is a solid pale ale that I use to tweak for different hop additions, malts, or yeast varieties. I have brewed it (or a variant) so often I can use it to test and calibrate all kinds of variables in my system. More importantly, I know it will make a tasty beer that is solid backbone for whatever element I am trying to test. If I learned one thing from Brulosopher’s exBEERiments, it is that even when you are experimenting you should make a beer that you will want to drink. 🙂
My approach in designing this beer has two main points: 1) capitalize on the flavor and aroma qualities of the hop and 2) stretch the 3 oz of hops I purchased as far as they would go; I did not want to flush my investment down the drain by using them for bittering. I debated using first wort hopping, but decided against it as I had no idea if the hop would exhibit excessive vegetal or catty character from an extended boil (like can happen with varieties like Citra). Thus, I settled on using a small addition of Warrior to get the clean bitterness I was looking for then even additions of Chama at 10-minute, hop stand, and dry hop additions. I opted to use WLP090 because it is a monster fermentor that is clean and drops bright, leaving the hops the star of the show.
|Batch Size||Boil Time||IBU||SRM||Est. OG||Est. FG||ABV|
|5.5 gal||60 min||39.7 IBUs||7.7 SRM||1.051||1.012||5.1 %|
|Pale Malt (2 Row) US||7.5 lbs||75|
|Light Munich||1 lbs||10|
|Caramel/Crystal Malt - 60L||8 oz||5|
|Victory Malt||8 oz||5|
|Wheat, Flaked||8 oz||5|
|Warrior||0.5 oz||60 min||Boil||Pellet||15|
|Chama - Neomexicanus||1 oz||10 min||Boil||Leaf||7.3|
|Chama - Neomexicanus||1 oz||15 min||Aroma||Leaf||7.3|
|Chama - Neomexicanus||1 oz||4 days||Dry Hop||Leaf||7.3|
|San Diego Super Yeast (WLP090)||White Labs||80%||65°F - 68°F|
|Mash Out||168°F||10 min|
Folks often claim that neomexicanus hops are especially “weedy” in character. Like I mentioned in my Sierra Nevada Neomexicanus IPA review, I am the King of Squaresville: “weedy” is not a well-stocked aroma in my palate. But damn Chama is weedy. I definitely get herbal out of the aroma… and by herbal, I mean herbal, though it also has a certain minty character to it. Herbal character is dominating, but there is a passionfruit fruitiness behind it mixed with some orange citrus character. I would say 70% herbal, 20% fruity, and 10% citrus. No vegetal, earthy, spicy, or piney character.
Otherwise, I get the faintest hint of caramelly sweetness and biscuit from the malt, but I am really having to dig to find it. No discernible yeast character and hops are front and center, WLP090 was the right call.
Okay, I know this is a hop review and it is not really important how this beer looks, but darn this beer just looks nice. The beer is a beautifully clear dark gold/light copper color with a fluffy, long-lasting white head that leaves some sticky lacing on the glass. I have always believed that you drink first with your eyes and boy howdy, I could look at this all day!
When I first poured this beer out of my lagering freezer (~32ºF) all I could taste was intense weedy(?) and slightly minty herbal character–danksauce in the truest sense. However, after warming up to proper serving temp (~50ºF) the herbal character mellowed out and the same passionfruit and light orange character from the aroma came forward; I would say 50% herbal, 30% fruity, and 20% citrus. I get a bit more juiciness out of the flavor than the aroma and the citrus has a pithy character to it, like sucking on an orange peel. Again, no vegetal, earthy, spicy, or piney character. It is interesting to note that although the flavor is “weedy” there is little or no dank or resinous quality like you would find in Simcoe or Columbus hops, it is strictly herbal.
Nicely balanced with a clean fermentation and a lightly toasty/bready maltiness. The non-hoppy characteristics are not super important other than they are clean and did not get in the way of the hop character.
The beer is crisp, but has a nice body to it. Moderate carbonation and a mild creaminess from the flaked wheat. There is a slight astringency, which I liken to when you accidentally eat the pith from an orange. It is not overwhelming or off-putting, indeed it helps add to the citrus character from the hop. A very slight alcohol warming.
To cut to the chase: is Chama worth your time? Absolutely. If you are the adventurous type and/or an herb enthusiast I recommend trying it in a single(ish) hop beer like the one I used in this recipe. Otherwise, I think this hop would be an excellent pairing for a dank, resinous, and piney hop like Simcoe or Columbus. Alternately, balance it out by pairing it with a fruity and citrusy hop like Citra. Just keep in mind that hop growers have not yet squeezed the oil content out of neomexicanus that you might be used to from lupulus derived varieties, so be careful not to overwhelm the Chama character.
Though I should note, Chama might not be for everyone. If you are not a fan of herbal character in beers (I know some folks who are not) or do not like “weedy” tastes or aromas then this hop is not for you. Otherwise, I am 2/2 on being delighted by neomexicanus; take any opportunity you can to taste or brew a beer with neomexicanus hops!
On a personal note, this might be one of my most perfectly made beers to date. I hit my OG, FG, and volumes on the nose and the finished beer is clean, crisp, and crystal clear. I have not been 100% pleased with a few of the beers I have made lately (I think I have the same grody batch of Amarillo that ericbrews mentions) and I was worried I was losing my touch… but I am worried no more!
Making me thirsty! Have you thought about splitting a batch and using different hop additions either in the boil or just dry hop? I often wonder how much the dry hop affects the previous boil additions and it might be a nice experiment.
Derek Springer says
I’d love to do a ton of experiments! Unfortunately the costs are pretty high and supply is pretty low. I stretched these hops as far as I could using techniques most folks would use to get aroma/flavor out of them.
Maybe I’ll try it with next years crop 🙂
Thanks for the link!
Ya, I’m throwing out the rest of my 2013 Amarillo. Just waiting for my club’s hop bulk buy to go through and I’ll be sitting on enough 2014 hops to last me the year!
Derek Springer says
Looking back every single beer that I’ve been unimpressed with has used that 2013 Amarillo crop. I think it’s time to cut my losses!
Kellan Stec says
Derek was kind enough to send me a bottle of this beer. Here is what I thought about it.
Very bright and crystal clear, nice 1 finger head (even though I had just opened the shipping package). Dissipated, but never completely. Light copper hue. No picture because I drank the thing so damn fast.
Weed. No kidding. It smells like someone is smoking reefer in the same room (Derek, are you sure this is legal?). It’s not overpowering, but pretty noticeable. Once I get past that, I get a hint of citrus and peach. Like maybe how a peach would smell if they had peels like oranges.
Nice body, good creaminess, I assume from the flaked wheat. Might be the “herbaceous” smell playing tricks on me, but the resinous hops are more apparent to me. It has a nice and “sticky” feeling to it.
At first it tastes very “herby”. As it warms, more of the fruit character comes out and I get a lot of citrus and a bit of mango. Pleasant, mild bitterness.
I sucked this down way too fast. It was so good. Excellent hop utilization here. Good source water, and no perceivable off-flavors. In many ways it reminds me of Sierra Nevada’s Neomexicanus beer, but I honestly like Derek’s better. There is a lot less going on with it, allowing one variety of NMX to truly shine. I understand Sierra Nevada used several varieties of NMX in their beer.
To be blunt, I fucking loved it. I could drink a lot of this. Derek, do you ship cases or kegs? 😛
I ordered some Latir (Chama was sold out), and I intend on using this recipe.
Derek was awesome and sent a pair of bottles to me for tasting! I brought them to my trusty local brewery and shared them with some great brewers and friends. Here’s what we thought!
Appearance – Nice orange/copper color, beautiful head. Looks wonderful and clear.
Aroma – Juicy fruit gum, candied orange. None of us got any of the ganja notes we’d heard about. One taster noted that the dominant aromas were sweet orange and Fruity Pebbles. Smells delicious. I think that I personally said the word “candied” at least a dozen times.
Taste/Mouthfeel – A lot of mandarin orange mixed with stone fruit, peaches and apricots. Very fruity. Has a melon-y bitterness, notes of cantaloupe. Pretty malty base, tastes like there’s some crystal and maybe some Maris Otter or darker base malts involved. A little bit sweet, not quite sure if it’s a high FG or if it’s the sweet orange notes tricking our palates. The dankness came through a bit in the aftertaste and hangs there, definitely present but it wasn’t all that strong. No off-flavors at all, clean yeast (assumed Chico-relation) really nice and smooth pale ale, balanced easy drinker. Body is nice and full, the beer overall feels very “round” akin to a Bell’s Two-Hearted.
Overall – Well-made beer, and an interesting showcase. A couple of the tasters commented that the dry-hop could have been fatter to highlight the hops more, which made me think that perhaps the reason we didn’t get so much of the weedy flavor is that it dissipates relatively quickly. Our tasting was conducted about a week and a half after that of Kellan (also posted in comments here). Maybe shipping has an effect on hop flavor? Regardless, we all agreed that Chama hops are really interesting and would love to get our hands on them. Big, sweet citrus with some interesting other fruity flavors poking through, definitely haven’t seen that flavor profile before. The moderately malty backbone was a good match for the hop.
Re-taste – As we are wont to do at the North, we tried some (many) other beers and came back to the Chama Pale. With a different palate-state, the melon note was more pronounced, mandarin orange was still very much at the fore along with tangerine. The hop flavors seemed even brighter, but the sweetness was maintained. We all presumed at this point that the perception of sweetness was probably a hop character. The dank aftertaste was clearly still present, really interesting that it’s so sweet/orange up front and finishes like dank ganj.
Thanks Derek, the beer was wonderful!
Derek Springer says
Thanks for posting the review! Better late than never 🙂