Hops cones and hops pellets.

Zappa Hops

If you love beer and music, we’ve found the next hop plant for you – Zappa hops. Zappa is named after legendary musician, Frank Zappa. It’s a hop plant that’s beginning to gain recognition in the beer industry, especially in IPAs. Featuring a combination of fruity and spicy flavors, Zappa is the perfect hop to try in your next homebrew. If you don’t brew it for yourself, brew it in honor of the late, great, Frank Zappa!

Let’s take a look at how Zappa hops came to be and how it’s used in the industry today.

A stamp with images of Frank Zappa, the namesake of Zappa hops.

History/Origin

Zappa originates in the wild mountains of New Mexico where it was grown by plant researcher, Todd Bates. It was then produced in collaboration with the Zappa family and was so named for multiple reasons. Yes, the name is paying homage to Frank Zappa, but it also received this name because of how counter-culture Zappa is to traditional hop plants. Just how Frank Zappa was counter-culture in his musical career.

General Charicteristics

Zappa is a 100% Humulus lupulus variety neomexicanus hop and is unlike anything found on the beer market today. Let’s dig into the details of Zappa hops.

Fresh picked hops cones and hops pellets.

Flavor & Aroma Profile

Zappa has a bite of spiciness mixed with notes of fruitiness. Mango, passion fruit, citrus, and pine are amongst its aroma and flavor profile. It’s also described as having a minty and savory flavor. It’s an aroma hop that’s usually only used as a late-boil addition or for dry hopping.

Brewing Values of Zappa Hops

Here are the brewing values for Zappa hops. Keep in mind that every year produces different quantities and qualities of Zappa, so these numbers are based on the average of what Zappa usually produces.

  • Alpha Acid – 6-9%

Alpha acids are the main source of bitterness for beer and the longer you boil Zappa hops, the more bitter it will be.

  • Beta Acid – 8-9%

Beta acid might have acid in the name, but unlike Alpha, it doesn’t contribute to a beers bitterness. Betas purpose is to contribute flavor and aroma profile to a beer.

  • Alpha-Beta Ratio – 1:1 – 1:1

The ratio that you use for adding alpha acid and beta acid will determine how bitter your brew is.

  • Co-humulone as % of Alpha – 40-45%

The lower the cohumulone % is, the less bitter your beer will be. Higher levels will result in a more bitter taste.

  • Total Oils 1.8-2.5 mL

Oils will also add flavor and aroma to the end result of a brew. Here are the different oils used with Zappa hops.

  • Myrcene – 64-65%
  • Humulene – 4-5%
  • Caryophyllene – 8-9%
  • Farnesene – 20-24%

Each of these oils is used to add spice, fruitiness, woodiness, and other accents in Zappa hops.

Beer Styles That Use Zappa Hops

Zappa is used in several different types of beers including IPAs, Hazy IPAs, milkshake IPAs, Pale Ales, and Fruited Sours.

Glass of IPA craft beer.

Beers That You Can Buy That Use Zappa Hops

Steep Coast Zappa DIPA

Zappa Smash Session IPA

Zapped on Zappa IPA

Many, many more!

Common Substitutions For Zappa Hops

Because of how unique Zappa hops are, there isn’t any other hop plant that can serve as its substitution. Zappa was selectively grown and cultivated before it hit the market in 2015. As a result, it’s truly unique in its flavor, aroma, and brewing qualities.

Person adding hops pellets to batch of home brew.

Tips For Growing Your Own Zappa Hops

Have we got you curious and thirsty enough to try to grow your own Zappa yet? If so, here is some crucial information that you’ll need. Like I always say, if you take care of your hops, your hops will take care of you.

Water

Like all hops, Zappa needs plenty of water, especially in the first two years of growth. Water Zappa regularly so that the soil remains moist but not flooded. You should be able to stick your finger two inches into the ground at all times and feel moisture.

Light

Zappa needs 6-8 hours of sunlight per day, followed by partial shade.

Hops plant in the sun.

Soil

Sandy, well-drained loam soil with a pH level between 6.0 and 7.0 is best for growing Zappa hops. You’ll want to plant your rhizome at least four inches deep in the ground and allow enough space for your plants roots to spread. Planting each Zappa hop plant 3 to 5 feet apart should be sufficient.

Zones

Hops plants are hardy and can thrive in hardiness zones 3 through 8. It’s best to plant Zappa hops between the months of February and April, because they can withstand cold temperatures for the most part. However, you want to avoid planting them until after the last frost of the year.

Pruning

To maintain good growth and reduce pests and diseases, keep your hop plants trimmed. Trimming is also key to keeping hop plants growing vertically instead of horizontally. If needed, use a pole or post to help train your plants to grow in a vertical direction. At times, you may need to also introduce a fungicide or herbicide into the hop growth process to keep mildew and pests at bay.

Outdoor

Zappa hops will grow to a height of 20-25 feet tall, so you’ll want to plant them outdoors. You should also provide a trellace or support system to aid them as they grow tall.

Where To Purchase Zappa Hops

Zappa is grown exclusively by CLS Farms in the Yakima Valley of Washington. As a result, they’re on of the only places that you can purchase Zappa from. Whether you want to purchase the rhizome and grow your own plant or purchase the pellets directly, Yakima Valley Hops is where you need to go.

Conclusion

Closeup of hops cones on a plant with rows of hops plants in the background.

If you’re looking for new beer flavors or something to spice up your homebrew operation, Zappa hops is the way to go. It has a truly unique flavor profile that’s unparalleled by any other hop plants out there. It’s said that if Zappa were an animal, it would be a unicorn, due to its unique qualities and profile. If you give Zappa a try, we guarantee that you won’t regret it!

Have you used Zappa hops in any of your home brew experiments? If so, tell us about your experience with it in the comments section below! For information about other kinds of hops, click here for our blog posts about brewing ingredients.

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