Nick Carr on December 18, 2018 0 Comments History of Bullion Hops Tastes, much like fashion trends, tend to cycle back around given enough time. It’s happened to beer over the last few years with a shift away from bitterness in IPA, for example, with a renewed focus on the aroma and flavor. This particular change, at least to some extent, is driven by the boom in hop varieties available to brewers. But, it’s not all about new hops. A few older varieties such as Comet, Erocia, and Olympic are making a new splash in the brewing world. Of these retro hops, Bullion is not only the oldest, at some 88 years old, but it is also one of the oldest high alpha-acid hops. The breeding program that resulted in Bullion was initiated in 1917, when Professor Ernest Salmon decided to pursue a goal of combining the high resin of American hops with European aroma-type cultivars. The mother was a wild hop from Manitoba, Canada which was open pollinated in 1918. Bullion was one of two plants selected from the resulting seedlings. The other plant was Brewer’s Gold. It took 30 years for Bullion hops to be officially released for commercial growing in 1938. It showed Bullion delivered good yields and higher alpha-acid content than just about any other variety at the time, ranging from 7% in Europe to about 9% in the U.S. (this range now peaks out around 12% in the U.S.). Though, its main downside was that the variety did not store particularly well. Once released it was widely planted in Canada and America, especially in Oregon. In Britain, brewers never quite came to terms with its bold bite or its wild American aromas that included strong notes of blackcurrant. Some Bullion hops were planted in Britain, and it was even heavily used by Guinness until it fell out of favor in the 1960s. Bullion hops continued to be farmed and used in America until 1985. It was at that time that brewers opted for higher alpha varieties that had better storage stability. Jump forward 70 years and this blast from the past is enjoying a second chance. Hukins’ Hops reintroduced a bullion crop to their farm back in 2014, marketing it as an aroma hop. In 2017, their Bullion hop was crowned champion of the Institute of Brewing & Distilling’s (IBD) British Hop Awards, beating out 196 entries from 29 different varieties. Poetically, for the father/son team at Hukins’ Hops, their father/grandfather won the IBD competition back in 1960 with, you guessed it, Bullion hops. How to Brew Beer With Bullion Hops Bullion is a publicly available hop variety, so there are no restrictions on growing it in your own hop garden. However, rhizomes and plants are near impossible to find at the moment, especially in the United States. Acid Composition Breakdown Alpha Acid (UK): 5.3 – 9.5% Alpha Acid (US): 8 – 12.5% Beta Acid: 4.5 – 5.3% Co-Humulone: 47 – 50% Oil Composition Breakdown Total Oils: 1.0 – 1.9 ml/100g Myrcene Oil: 45 – 55% (of total) Humulene Oil: 18.84% (of total) Caryophyllene Oil: 9 – 11%% (of total) Franesene Oil: trace amounts (of total) B-Pinene Oil: trace amounts (of total) Linalool Oil: trace amounts (of total) Geraniol Oil: trace amounts (of total) Hop oil composition will vary between harvest years and where the hop was grown. These numbers represent an average only. Hopefully, this will change as its new found popularity increases. Until you’re lucking enough to strike gold and find your own Bullion plant to grow, consider other varieties to help you cultivate a green thumb. It’s easy to discover varieties that grow well in your area by talking to local hop farmers or your homebrew supply store. General Characteristics: Origin — Britain Year Released — 1938 Growth Rate — Vigorous Yield — High Cones — Medium to Small; Heavy Cones Maturity — Medium to Late Season Susceptible to — Most Viruses Resistant to — Moderately resistant to Downy Mildew; Resistant to Verticillium Wilt Ease of Harvest — Fair to Good Storage — Poor; Retains only 40% to 50% alpha acid content after 6 months of being stored at 68°F Patented or Public — Public Aroma & Sensory Description: Bullion brings a nice melding of old and new world character due to its parentage. It has the blackcurrant and blackberry notes wild North American hops are known for, while also bringing an earthy or herbal richness that’s more inline with British cultivars. It may also present some spicy orange notes, but most of its fruit profile consists of a darker character. Fennel, aniseed, dill, and lemongrass have all been used to describe Bullion’s herbal character. Availability: Bullion hops are not too difficult to find. It’s unlikely that your local homebrew supply will have this in stock, so you may be better off shopping online for this one. At the time of this writing, I’ve only been able to find Bullion in pellet form, but it is possible whole cones would be available soon after a year’s harvest. If so, it’s only going to be for a short period. Perhaps, this will change as its new popularity continues to grow. Use: Once considered a “work-horse” bittering hop, this variety is more likely to be used today as a dual-purpose or aroma hop. Its mix of new and old world character makes it a good candidate for both sides of the boil, though some brewer’s think its bittering is a bit harsh. It is often used in darker styles, such as porters, stouts, and scotch ales, where its earthy, spicy, and dark red fruit character can meld with a strong malt profile. Dry-hopping with it will be a matter of personal taste, because the blackcurrant notes may become harsh. Experiment and decide for yourself. Can Substitute With / For: Nugget Newport Horizon Brewer’s Gold Common Beer Styles Using Bullion Hops: Porters Stouts Scottish Ales Bitters Dark Lagers Old Ales Barely Wines Commercial Examples: To help you gain a better idea of this hop’s aroma and flavor, I would recommend you sample as many of these as you can find. This, ummm… research will deepen your understanding of how Bullion works in different beer styles and give you a better idea of how to use it in your own homebrewing. Uses Only Bullion: Black Session IPA from Old Dairy Brewery (UK) – uses green hops from Hukins Hops 1770 London Porter from Brumaison Craft Brewing (UK) Bullion Pale Ale from Brumaison Craft Brewing (UK) Carton of Milk from Carton Brewing (US) Uses Bullion With Other Hop Varieties: Ellie’s Brown from Avery Brewing (Avery uses Bullion quite a bit) (US) — Also uses Cascade and Sterling. Autumn Pale from Cellar Head Brewing (England) — Also uses Fuggles. The Beast from Avery Brewing (US) — Also uses Bravo, Sterling, Hersbrucker, Columbus, and Styrian Golding (Read our review). If you have any experience brewing with Bullion hops or have tasted a beer that makes use of this variety, please let everyone know your thoughts down in the comments below. Happy Brewing!