meet the farmer who discovered Amarillo®
Here he is:
My name is Darren Gamache, I’m a fifth generation hop grower. My family have been growing hops at the farm since 1933. Back then it was called Sunshine Ranch. In the late 1980s my Grandfather handed the ranch over to his sons and it was re named Virgil Gamache Farms. The farm started with the hop variety Cluster and at its peak in the 1980s and 90s we were harvesting 500 acres. In the early 2000s due to market conditions it shrunk down to 252 acres and now we are up to 1200 acres and 400 acres of harvesting for other people on top of that.
We manage the flavour profile of our varietals through our HopTechnics Program. Amarillo® from various areas including North and South Idaho, Oregon and the five growing regions in Germany must be harvested within certain timeframes in order to be true to brand and deliver specific flavor notes.
How did you and Amarillo® meet?
It was originally called VGXP01 – Virgil Gamache Experimental No: 01 and it was found in a hop yard growing as a volunteer plant, in 1989. We smelled it and I can remember watching my Dad as he said “this is what I wish beer could taste like.” And we honestly don’t know how it survived because we have roguing crews going through tearing down any off types, and removing them from the field. The fact that this plant took over the hill and prospered was extraordinary. It was vigorous and didn’t look like anything else on the farm at the time. It was a happy accident that the crew missed this one. We got it over to some brewers in bales as it came. They used it and loved it and excitingly, the hop delivered on my father’s wish, the beer tasted just like the hop smelt. We now have over 3.7million plants over 4200 acres across two continents, grown by approximately 132 licensed family farms and it all came from that one plant.
With this hop growing in so many regions, what have you noticed that Amarillo is delivering this year?
The new thing that we have been able to do just last year for the first time is to establish flavour buckets. All we knew before (from the Amarillo® that we were delivering) was that it was an early, mid or late picked Amarillo®. We didn’t really know what characteristics the brewers were choosing them for, we never had that detailed level of communication. Last year we had a bumper crop across all growing regions, and we looked at the pounds of hops from each farm and thought, “how do I pull these hops together in a way that gives people something interesting, if we blend it all together, that’s not interesting.” The result is that we get some really intriguing nuances, we get them from the different terriors, literally from Washington state, to Elbe-Saale in Germany.
So, then we put together these similar profiled farmers lots, and we had a stone fruit run, a lemon candy run, a grapefruit run and a standard Amarillo® run that has the orange and a bit of green onion on the back. In total we have 6- 7 expressions of this hop on the table that we will push forward.
This is why it’s so much fun! People can start playing with the facets of Amarillo®.
Why did you begin processing Amarillo® into T45 pellets?
So, when the NEIPAs started to take off, these guys were using crazy amounts of hops, and their losses were about 35% and even though they could charge enough to make it up over the bar, I thought, that is not sustainable. So, I thought let’s go ahead and spend a bit more and get rid of that cellulose so that these guys can recover more beer and they won’t have to pay for so much shipping. The reason we opted to develop T45 was really to help with efficiency right through the process for brewers. It also gets rid of the grassy notes, there are just so many benefits.
Historically the T45 was used in the 60s, 70s and 80s to homogenise varieties like Saaz and Hallertau in order to get hop contributed nitrate levels in the wort down and alpha levels up. Our Amarillo® T45 pellets are being processed at the original facility in the St Johann plant in Southern Germany.
US Brewers are reporting that our current version of T45 is a higher quality than others on the market, it’s a new twist on an already sexy hop. Brewers are particularly impressed that what you can smell is what you get in the beer, delivering again on the hallmark reason for Amarillo®’s success.
What flavour profiles are you seeing from German Amarillo® that sets it apart from the American grown Amarillo®?
German Amarillo® flavours are generally a rounder, gentler version of the American Amarillo®. We are seeing similar aroma characteristics across the different growing regions in both countries, However, since the farms are smaller in Germany, it’s easier to tease out the nuances of the blocks Simply, we are picking it when the aroma that we are looking for shows up.
Our German farms are spread out across the 5 main hop growing regions of Germany: Hallertau; Tettnang; Jura, Spalt and the Elbe-Saale area in Eastern Germany. In the last couple of years we have seen phenomenal yields that compare equally to the best blocks from our US farms, and with unique picking windows in those regions and careful attention we have been able to coax the terroir out of the hops to reveal their unique profiles.
If you would like to try some of these expressions for yourself contact Juz, Cory, Mitch or Fabs or our customer service team will put you in touch with a Bintani team member near you.
Go to our contact page to find your nearest warehouse to get your hands on some samples of these intriguing hops.