Here in New Mexico, we like our hops. In a land where spicy food is king, powerful flavors rule. When it comes to our beer, hop-forward IPAs are a statewide favorite. So it seems only fitting that New Mexico should grow its very own native hop variety, the Neo-mexicanus 1, and that New Mexico hop farming should be pioneered by New Mexico’s first brewery, Santa Fe Brewing Company.
But let’s rewind for a moment, back to 2003 when a local Rinconada man named Todd Bates began a singular project. He frequently hiked through the New Mexico mountains identifying and gathering native wild hop plants. He then isolated and cultivated the varieties at his farm and eventually created a hop that was desirable for brewing. The result was the Neo-mexicanus 1 (Neo-1 for short) and Amalia hop varieties. In about 2010, Todd sold the fruits of his labor to a Washington-based commercial hop farmer, Eric Desmarais, at CLS Farms.
When Santa Fe Brewing Company owner Brian Lock heard about the unique New Mexico hop variety, he was immediately enamored with the idea of growing his own hops. “That really interested me,” he says, “because No. 1, it was a new hop variety that no brewer had tried to brew with before, and No. 2, it was native, so I knew if I put that particular variety in the ground that it would do well, because they are native.”
Brian continues, “I was really excited about taking on the challenge to grow my own hops.” He found a beautiful location near Blue Heron Brewery in Rinconada. The 7.5-acre farm is right on the Rio Grande, which is ideal, not only for its natural beauty, but also because it has plenty of water available for agriculture. Santa Fe Brewing Company purchased the land in December 2013, and Brian began planting the unusual Neo-1 and Amalia rhizomes (bought from CLS Farms) in July of 2014.
Many companies grow or use locally sourced ingredients, but this takes it to a whole new level. These hops are naturally more adapted to the New Mexico climate, so they’re more sustainable and, best of all, they’re unique. They are ours. Continue reading