"We picked a Belgian yeast from the massive sheet of yeasts that they have available... we then got to the hop sheet, and it really showed who knew their hops vs. those who didn't -- the sheet just had names and how many tons Sierra Nevada had on hand. If you didn't know the flavors of certain hops, then it was hard to participate. We picked out El Dorado, Mandarina, and something called 'experimental hop #366'."
"The final product is going to be a Belgian red IPA, dry hopped with the experimental hop #366 and peppercorns."
So what can we expect from this beer? [Beer nerd alert!] The Belgian IPA category is relatively new, having been inspired by the bitter sensations of the American IPAs of North America. They are hoppy pale colored ales with various malts, but are generally finished with Belgian yeast strains and have a pronounced dry edge to them. A red IPA finished off with Belgian yeast and an extensive dry hopping of the intriguingly named 'experimental hop #366'? Sounds like it could work.
Experimental hop #366, or HBC 366 as it is known in the brewing industry, having yet to pick up steam and a name (once that happens, we get the names like Citra or Nelson Sauvin), is a relatively moderate-to-high alpha acid hop varietal, clocking in at 11.5% to 13.5%. The sensory analysis of this plant shows that is has peaks of citrus and tropical fruit, along with pine, and is considered to have "zero negative attributes". It is a descendant of the Warrior hop, used extensively in Dogfish Head's IPA.
Brooklyn Brewery has used this hop variety for their summer experimental Scorcher #366, and gives an in-depth back story to this plant.
Jason Perrault of Perrault Farms crossed the Warrior variety with a "wild" hop back in 2001. Jason says: "The brilliant coloration of the leaves combined with a nice growth habit and exceptionally formed cones with abundant lupulin (the repository of all those aromatic oils), resulted in a strikingly beautiful plant."
Working with the legendary hop breeder Gene Probasco, Jason took cuttings and started growing dozens of plants with fellow grower John I. Haas. Tom Nielsen, hop guru with our friends at Sierra Nevada Brewing, helped them figure out that this new hop was indeed delicious in beer. By 2009, the Smith family of B.T. Loftus Ranches were growing some too, and today "HBC 366" occupies about 1.2 acres of land in the Yakima Valley of Washington.