Part of my series on neomexicanus hops.
When I began the journey of discovery that led me to neomexicanus I had no idea just what a sensation this series would become. My only thought at the time was “I just spent $50 on six ounces of hops, I should write an article or two so I feel justified,” not “I should spend the next few months of my life researching the history and future of neomexicanus.” Unsurprisingly, it appears there are many adventurous homebrewers out there looking to explore the horizons of this new hop variety with as much eagerness as myself. In a cruel irony of fates I was in the same place at the same time as none other than Stan Hieronymus himself, but missed the opportunity to serve him some neomexicanus beer by mere minutes (Stone Escondido is a huge place and the 59th Annual American Hop Convention was having a reception there).
@derekspringer dang, on bus & just read this. Sorry I missed you. And the beer.
— Stan Hieronymus (@StanHieronymus) January 22, 2015
As for the reception to the Chama Pale Ale: it received almost standing ovations at my club and equally positive reviews from the handful of individuals to whom I shipped bottles. Folks were having a hard time believing that there was so much character from only three ounces of hops and were tossing around words like mellon, peach, and (of course) weed to describe the aromas and flavor. Needless to say, it has been a hit; I think there is going to be quite a demand for Chama next fall!
Since I have been on a bit of a lager kick recently (’tis this season) I decided a simple (but delicious!) German Pilsner would be a good showcase for Latir which is described as “spicy, herbal, and flowery.” Before I get into the recipe and hop review let’s take a closer look at the hop details.
Unlike the Chama variety, The Holy Hops website provides a nice broad analysis of the composition of Latir hops. I was surprised to discover the Myrcene content, at 71.2% of total oil, is higher than even woody/piny hops like Simcoe (60 – 65%) and Northern Brewer (50 – 60%). Though on the flip side, Humulene is only present in trivial amounts, which clearly contributes more of the classic woody organic character that folks think of when they hear woody/piny. It is really interesting that, minus Myrcene, almost all of the levels I would associate with “spicy, herbal, and flowery” are far lower than other similarly described lupulus varieties.
Availability: Holy Hops
Description: Spicy, herbal, flowery.
HSI: 25.3% (stores decently)
|Total Oil (mL per 100g)||0.79|
|Caryophyllene (% of total oil)||Piney, Woody, Spicy, Herbal||2.8%|
|Farnesene (% of total oil)||Floral, Piney, Woody||0.1%|
|Geraniol (% of total oil)||Floral, Sweet Rose||1.4%|
|Humulene (% of total oil)||Piney, Woody||0.2%|
|Linalool (% of total oil)||Floral, Orange, Tropical||0.8%|
|Myrcene (% of total oil)||Piney, Woody||71.2%|
|Pinene (% of total oil)||Piney, Herbal, Spicy||1.3%|
For those of you that are not hop chemists it is interesting to note that a total oil content of 0.79 mL per 100g is substantially lower than many contemporary hops (but on par with noble varieties). For instance, varieties like Citra (2.2 – 2.8 mL per 100g) and Simcoe (2.0 – 2.5 mL per 100g) can have up to 4x the oil content as this batch of Latir. This rings true with Sierra Nevada Product Manager sierranevadabill’s description of neomexicanus hops as “low potency, but man, what a flavor.”
The description for Latir seems very noble to me and we are in the middle of lager season, so I decided that a simple and delicious German Pilsner would make a great base for the beer. German Pilsner is almost the definition of simplicity and this is possibly one of my simplest recipes–just a dash of Carapils and Melanoidin to bolster the complexity and head retention–besides some grainy Pils character there should be nothing to get in the way of the Latir hops.
Similar to my Chama Pale Ale, my approach is to maximize hop flavor and aroma. At 7.2% AA Latir has some good punch behind it, so I decided on 100% hop burst additions, adding 1 ounce each at 20-minutes, 10-minutes, and a 15-minute hop stand. I decided on WLP940 Mexican Lager the same reason I chose WLP090 for the Chama Pale Ale: it is a great fermentor and does a good job of highlighting hop character.
I cannot quite tell if I have become used to the herbal/weedy character of the neomexicanus hop varieties or if Latir just has a mellower (natch) herbal character, but I would not consider “herbal/weedy” as the main descriptor of this variety like it is for Chama. The main aroma this time is a nice floral bouquet followed by a mellower herbal note, some light grainy Pils malt character, and a trailing spicy/peppery note. I would say 50% floral, 30% herbal, and 20% spicy. No vegetal, earthy, fruity, or piney character.
Otherwise, maybe the tiniest sliver of sulphur and no ester or alcohol character. The kind of clean lager character you would hope for!
A very clear light golden color, probably the palest beer I have ever made. Creamy white head that does not last quite as long as I would like but leaves some decent lacing. Head retention can be affected by hops so I wonder if the long-lastingness of the head has been effected by Latir specifically or of some other factor of my recipe/process.
Crisp and bitter, with a dry finish and a slight Pils maltiness. Smooth hop bitterness dominates and lingers into the aftertaste; perhaps a result of adding all the hops in the last twenty minutes of the boil or perhaps Latir might just be very smooth–I do not know the cohumulone levels so I cannot be completely certain. I still get the same dank herbal character I found in Chama, but it is more balanced by the floral and spicy notes. The floral character is a bit rosy and a bit generic flowery (I really need to work on my flower vocabulary) while the spicy has a light peppery character. The overall mix this time is a bit more herbal and closer to 40% floral, 40% herbal, and 20% spicy.
Clean, no fruity esters, no diacetyl.
For finishing as dry as it is (1.010) the slight creaminess and moderate carbonation lends to a fuller medium body. I get the same slight orange-pithy astringency that I noticed in the Chama hops. I am beginning to believe this is a character trait of the neomexicanus varieties in general.
So is Latir worthy of your time and dollars? Yes, but it is not the grand slam that Chama is; if Chama is an A+, Latir is an A-. The character is interesting and unique, but I guess I was hoping for a bit more out of it: there is some good dank character, but I wanted the floral to be more floral and the spicy to be more spicy. At $25 for three ounces it is hard for me to justify choosing Latir over other herbal/floral/spicy varieties like Hallertauer or Saaz at a quarter of the cost. However, if Latir were to come down to “only” twice the cost of noble varieties I would recommend it in a heart-beat. Though I have to wonder if I would feel this way if I tried Latir first and Chama second… Chama is a tough act to follow.
That said, Latir would fit very well in any number of classic lagers or light ales where you are interested in a little something more than classic noble character. In all fairness, Latir does have great neomexicanus character which I would liken “dank-noble”, so it would be a great way to bridge the gap between traditional styles and something new. In fact, if you bolstered Latir with the noble variety of your choice you would probably come up with something spectacular. Alternately, just enjoy Latir for what it is–it is pretty good!