Over a decade ago, El Dorado® made its debut in Idaho. The relatively new variety at the time had only been planted at one other farm – owner and developer, CLS Farms in the Yakima Valley.
Idaho’s similar climate and abundant hop-growing region made it an ideal place to first expand the variety to more growers, which provides a necessary geographic diversity that inherently de-risks the variety.
Originally intended for the alpha market, El Dorado® attracted brewers' attention not only for its high alpha acids but also for its spectrum of aromas, which include tropical and stone fruit flavors. Today, El Dorado® is a top variety among brewers with growers in five states.
Demand for El Dorado® coincided with the rapid growth of the craft beer industry. In 2013, Stone and Drake’s Brewing made a collaboration beer featuring El Dorado®. Subsequently, more brewers began incorporating this new hop into their portfolios.
To adequately meet that demand, CLS Farms needed to quickly expand acreage itself and to other growers from 2012 to 2020. This meant enlisting additional growers to provide geographical diversity and volume for the market.
Obendorf Farms, a longtime grower in Idaho, became a natural fit given their investment in well-maintained harvesting facilities, willingness to take on a challenging variety to grow, and open acreage. Today, Obendorf Farms – located in the Treasure Valley of Idaho – has become one of the prominent growers of El Dorado® in Idaho.
Part of El Dorado®’s genetic lineage is rooted in the Southwest United States, home of the Neomexicanus hop species. With unique aromas, these hops can be difficult to grow. Its great-great-grandfather is a Colorado native male hop variety. CLS Farms also owns and grows Zappa® and Medusa™, the only two 100% Neomexicanus varieties grown commercially.
Agronomically, to achieve high yields, El Dorado® takes more work than others. In 2021, CLS Farms created the Grower Guide to provide a roadmap for maintaining quality and achieving higher yields. Obendorf Farms had already been collaborating with the CLS team to ensure this quality was met through several practices.
This included moving poles when switching fields to reduce off-types, training early for proper bloom timing, drying at lower temperatures, and delivering quickly to Mill 95 for faster pelletization. The combination of proper growing practices and a similar climate allowed for El Dorado® to grow well in Idaho.
The Yakima Valley and the Treasure Valley have similar landscapes – both are considered high deserts and experience four seasons. Idaho experiences a slightly warmer summer, though its day lengths tend to be shorter, comparatively.
Many of the El Dorado® fields in Idaho are planted where the soil makeup contains more sand, allowing for better drainage and root penetration. Brock Obendorf – owner and manager of Obendorf Farms – noted that these differences present in El Dorado® with an earlier harvest date than what occurs in Yakima and sometimes more pungent aromas.
El Dorado®’s vast picking window allows for a spectrum of aromas. Early maturity evokes aromas of citrus, while middle maturity evokes watermelon and pear. For deeper aromas, peak maturity elicits tropical aromas like pineapple and mango, stone fruit, candy lemon, and cherry. This year, Idaho-grown El Dorado® developed a mild maple aroma among the standard ones listed above.
Brewers looking to incorporate El Dorado® into their hops bills and achieve these flavors can do so by adding it throughout the brewing process.
To utilize El Dorado® on the hot side of a brewing operation, it can be added to the kettle during the boil for its clean bittering qualities. When used in late kettle additions, it elicits a more focused, bright flavor.
It also finds a great home in the whirlpool for sweet and citrus flavors. Most notably, El Dorado® in the dry-hop imparts a mix of fruit-forward flavors like pineapple, lemon, watermelon candy, peach rings, and mango.
El Dorado®’s name refers to the Lost City of Gold because of the deep, gold lupulin on the inside of the cone that holds all those aromas. Brewers often refer to it as “ElDo” for short.
The hop’s fun, tropical, and sometimes '80s-themed branding aims to provide a distinct experience for brewers using El Dorado®. It prioritizes not only its functional benefits but also the excitement it evokes, creating a positive experience for everyone involved, from the grower to the consumer.
El Dorado® remains a dominant variety for brewers. Its ability to work well with other hops, such as Citra®, Mosaic®, Centennial, and Cashmere, gives brewers options for imparting more nuanced flavor profiles. High alpha acids and total oils allow for flexibility throughout the brewing process as well.
Though still early, brewers will be happy to hear that the 2023 growing season is off to a good start in both Washington and Idaho. Snowpacks in both states appear to be above normal while the spring looks to have slightly below normal temperatures for both areas, but growers remain optimistic.
You can follow along with El Dorado® on social media at @eldoradohops or by visiting our website at www.eldoradohops.com.
Brewing an ElDo beer? Tag us on Instagram! We'd love to reshare it.
SHOP EL DORADO®
Marketing & Sales Manager, CLS Farms
About the author: Claire Desmarais is the sales and marketing manager for CLS Farms. She has spent her life surrounded by hops. She joined the family farm in 2020 as a sales and marketing manager. Usually working behind the scenes, Claire coordinates educational seminars, curates events, manages the farms' social media accounts, writes articles, and runs the fresh hop program every year.