Amarillo hops is one of the happiest accidents ever happened within the beer industry. Unlike most hop varieties that are carefully cultivated and cross-bred for a specific purpose, Amarillo has a different origin story. Amarillo is a true product of nature that was discovered by sheer chance. This article will go into all the detail about its surprising discovery. We’ll also discuss how Amarillo is used on a personal and commercial level in the hops world. Let’s get brewing!
History and Origin of Amarillo Hops
Amarillo was discovered in 1990 at the Virgil Gamache Farms in Washington state. One of the workers noticed a strange hop plant growing next to a Liberty hop plant. The unknown hop had an unusual appearance that included yellowish bine and immature leaves. While it looked somewhat similar to Liberty hops, it was apparent that the newcomer had a different look.
The farm was curious enough about this new hop plant to leave it alone and allow the cones to develop. The cones it produced were smaller than usual, which further led to their curiosity. Virgil Gamache Farms started cultivating and propagating Amarillo in 1991 and finally started selling it in 2003.
Amarillo is so-named because of the yellow cones it produces. While Amarillo is considered an aroma hop that’s added in late-boil additions, it has a relatively high alpha acid content. It also has one of the highest Myrcene oil levels of any hop variety. Amarillo is the shortened version of the hops full name, Amarillo VGXP01. Amarillo is patented and owned by Virgil Gamache Farms, and they have sole rights over its growth and distribution.
Flavor & Aroma Profile
Because of its extremely high Myrcene levels, Amarillo imparts strong citrus and tropical flavors and aromas. It also offers flowery and spicy flavors. However, its most beloved feature is the strong orange and fruity flavors and aromas it imparts. Orange, lemon, grapefruit, peach, apricot, and melon are all flavors attributed to Amarillo.
Brewing Values of Amarillo Hops
Here are the brewing values for Amarillo hops. Keep in mind that every year produces different quantities and qualities of Amarillo, so these numbers are based on average production.
- Alpha Acid – 7-11%
Alpha acids are the primary source of bitterness for beer, and the longer you boil Amarillo hops, the more bitter it will be.
- Beta Acid – 5.5-8%
Beta acid might have acid in the name, but it doesn’t contribute to a beer’s bitterness, unlike Alpha. Betas’ purpose is to contribute flavor and aroma profile to a beer.
- Alpha-Beta Ratio – 1:1 – 2:1
The ratio you use for adding Alpha and beta acids will determine how bitter your brew is.
- Co-humulone as % of Alpha – 21-24%
The lower the cohumulone % is, the less bitter your beer will be. Higher levels will result in a more bitter taste.
- Total Oils 1-2.3 mL
Oils will also add flavor and aroma to the final product. Here are the different oils used with Amarillo hops.
- Myrcene – 60-70%
- Humulene – 9-11%
- Caryophyllene – 2-7%
- Farnesene – 2-6%
- All Other Oils – 7-27%
Style of Beer That Use Amarillo Hops
Here are a few of the most common beer styles that use Amarillo hops.
- American Wheat Beer and Pale Ales
- Various IPAs
- Amber Ales and Beers
Beers That You Can Buy That Use Amarillo Hops
Because of how popular Amarillo is, you shouldn’t have any trouble finding a beer that uses it.
- Gumballhead from Three Floyds Brewing Company (highly recommended!)
- The Might Arrow from New Belgium
- The Red Hop Head IPA from Green Arrow of San Diego
- Pliny the Elder from Russian River Brewing Company
Common Substitutions For Amarillo Hops
If you can’t find any Amarillo hops to use in your homebrew, here are a few other hops that often get substituted in place of Amarillo.
How to Grow Your Own Amarillo Hops
Have we got you curious and thirsty enough to try to grow your own Amarillo hops yet? If so, here is some crucial information that you’ll need.
Amarillo needs plenty of water like all hops, especially in the first two years of growth. Water Brewer Amarillo so that the soil remains moist but not flooded. You should be able to stick your finger two inches into the ground at all times and feel moisture.
Amarillo requires 6 to 8 hours of sunlight per day. Full sun is ideal unless you live in warmer climates with high temperatures. Where the temperature is consistently in the 80s and 90s, your plant will need a mixture of sun and shade.
Sandy, well-drained loam soil with a pH level between 6.0 and 7.0 is best for growing Amarillo hops. You’ll want to plant your rhizome at least four inches deep in the ground and allow enough space for your plant’s roots to spread. Planting each Amarillo hop plant 3 to 5 feet apart should be sufficient.
Hops plants are hardy and can thrive in hardiness zones 3 through 8. It’s best to plant Amarillo hops between February and April because they can withstand cold temperatures for the most part. However, you want to avoid planting them until after the last frost of the year.
Keep your hop plants trimmed to maintain good growth and reduce pests and diseases. Trimming is also key to keeping hop plants growing vertically instead of horizontally. If needed, use a pole or post to help train your plants to grow in a vertical direction. At times, you may need to also introduce a fungicide or herbicide into the hop growth process to keep mildew and pests at bay.
Amarillo will grow to a height of 20-25 feet tall, so you’ll want to plant them outdoors. You should also provide a trellis or support system to aid them as they grow tall.
Where To Purchase Amarillo Hops
If you’re ready to fashion your very own homebrew using Amarillo hops, you can purchase them here!
Final Thoughts About Amarillo Hops
Amarillo truly is one of the happiest accidents in the history of the hops industry. While it was discovered by chance, it’s become one of the most widely used hop varieties in the world. If you haven’t done so yet, you would be well advised to try using Amarillo in your next homebrew. You won’t regret it!
Have you ever used Amarillo hops in your home brews? We’d love to hear all about your experiences with it in the comments section below! To read about other hops you can try at home, click here for our hops profile blog posts.