You can imagine the surprise when a unique hop, growing up the side of a picking machine in 2008, was found on an 800 acre , fourth generation farm in the Yakima Valley of Washington State. Hops were nothing new to the family of Puterbaugh Farms. In fact, 700 acres of the farm were dedicated to hops, with the remaining acres growing apples, grapes, raspberries, corn and pumpkins. But this new hop, according to a test run at Oregon State University, was determined to be a daughter of Magnum and Kitimadori (Japanese variety), neither of which grow there on the farm. This hop is not some modern marvel of genetic modification but instead a naturally occurring incident that spawned a new variety of hop!
How did the BELMA hop get its name? In 1894, just northeast of Mabton, Washington was a small community named Belma. T.W. Howell, a Mabton realtor, was responsible for the name Belma, as it stems from his mother’s favorite song, Sweet Belle Mahone. The romantic lyrics describe a man’s journey aboard a sailing ship after the death of his lifelong lover and best friend. When Mrs. Howell sang this favorite tune, she combined Bell with the first syllable of Mahone, creating Belma and it forever stuck with T.W. Howell. Such a sentimental history to a name suited the new hop perfectly. As the hop farming family puts it, “Fall in love with Belma just as we have here at Puterbaugh Farms.”
The BELMA hop has generated a lot of buzz because of the strawberry aroma that it gives off. Brewers from last years crop had many things to say about it, but overwhelmingly the talk came back to the strawberry aroma.
Since 2008, Puterbaugh Farms has been developing the unique BELMA hop for commercial distribution. Last year, the first commercial quantities became available. More than 4,000 pounds of the hop were sold in 2012, and used in some interesting beers (see below). A new batch will be ready on November 22, 2013.
Beer Alien has placed a ship on standby to pick up some of these hops on release day. The alien hive is eager to brew a batch or three using this new hop. Whisperings of names such as “BELMArtian Ale” can be heard around the hive. We will be sure to report our results back to you once the alien buzz recedes. Check back in the near future for that article!
Interview with Taylor Gardener of Hops Direct:
[Michael of Beer Alien] – What year was BELMA first available?
[Taylor Gardner of Hops Direct] – Belma was first available for purchase online and for contracting in 2012. 2012 was the first year Belma was producing commercial quantities.
[Michael of Beer Alien] – How many pounds of BELMA pellet were sold last year?
[Taylor Gardner of Hops Direct] – More than 4,000 pounds of Belma was sold last year.
[Michael of Beer Alien] – Is BELMA a naturally occurring hop (some readers have asked if it is genetically modified)?
[Taylor Gardner of Hops Direct] – Yes, Belma was discovered in 2008 growing on its own up the side of our picking machine. After having a sample of the vine tested at Oregon State University, the hop is a daughter of Magnum and Kitimadori (Japanese variety), none of which grows here on the farm. The variety occurred naturally, with absolutely no genetic modifications.
[Michael of Beer Alien] – Is there a beer that is nationally distributed that uses the BELMA hop as an ingredient?
[Taylor Gardner of Hops Direct] – Stone Brewing Co.’s: Stone R&R Coconut IPA
[Michael of Beer Alien] – Do you recommend any specific Malt to use when brewing with BELMA (Single Malt, Single Hop)?
[Taylor Gardner of Hops Direct] – We have received so many different recipe examples that were successful for brewers, the Malts have varied greatly depending on the brewing style. It is difficult to name just one.
For more details, visit Puterbaugh Farms official Project Belma page.
For a great write-up on a Single Hop IPA that was brewed using the BELMA hop, visit: http://www.bear-flavored.com/2012/12/recipe-and-tasting-notes-belma-single.html.
Some beers that have been brewed using BELMA Hops:
Special thanks to Puterbaugh Farms, Hops Direct and their staff. You can find out more at the following:
Webpage and Store: http://www.hopsdirect.com/
Facebook (BELMA): https://www.facebook.com/belma.hop